Norrbotten County (Norrbottens län)

Norrbotten County (Norrbottens län) is a Swedish county or län in the extreme north of Sweden. It borders to Västerbotten County and the Gulf of Bothnia. It also borders the counties of Nordland and Troms in Norway, and Lapland Province in Finland.

The name 'Norrbotten' is also used for a province of the same name. Norrbotten province covers only the eastern part of Norrbotten County - the inland mostly belongs to the Swedish Lapland (Lappland) province.

Norrbotten and about ⅔ of Swedish Lapland.

Norrbotten County covers almost ¼ of Sweden's surface, but is sparsely inhabited. This is especially true for inland part of Lapland.

The climate is generally harsh, which is not surprising considering its northern location. However, the long summer days allow crops to ripen within 2–3 months, and various grains are commonly grown and make up an important part of the industry. Besides grains, potatoes and turnips are also grown. The most important plant is however grass, used as hay for the livestock.

Major rivers in Norrbotten County (north–south) include the Torne River, Lule River, Kalix River, and Pite River. Rivers shared with Västerbotten County include Skellefte River and Ume River. Other rivers that flow directly to the sea and that are at least 100 km long are the Sangis River, Råne River, Åby River, and Byske River.

The population has increased during the last hundred years. The estimated 2002 population was 250,000. In the 1912 census, the population was 166,641, (4,000 more males than females), and of this, around 120,000 belonged to the Norrbotten province part. Twenty years earlier, in 1892, the population was only 110,000. Since the 1960s, however, most municipalities of the county have experienced a decrease in population figures, particularly in the inland.

During the Middle Ages, Norrbotten was considered to be terra nullius ('no man's land'). The area was sparsely populated by Sami, Kvens and different tribes/people related to the Finns. From the Middle Ages on, the Swedish kings tried hard to colonize and Christianize the area. This took time, however; even today, there are Finnish and Sami minorities living in the area, who have maintained their own culture and customs.

Following the Finnish War in 1809, Västerbotten County was split between Sweden and Finland, with the larger part remaining within the Swedish borders. In 1810, the county was divided again when Norrbotten County was created out of the northern part, on the Swedish side. Most people in Norrbotten County still refer to the entire county, including the areas in Finnish Lapland, when they say 'Norrbotten', which is also the name of a smaller province for practical and historical reasons, which do not imply that they would not prefer to use the name Lapland.

Even though the natural resources (hydroelectricity, timber, and minerals) from Norrbotten played a key role in the industrialization of Sweden, Norrbotten is rather poor when compared to the southern parts of Sweden. It has a high rate of unemployment and young people leave the area for a better future 'down south'.

The coat of arms of Norrbotten County combines the arms of the provinces Västerbotten and Lappland and was granted in 1949. Since 1995 the province Norrbotten has a coat of arms of its own, but the county arms have not been changed accordingly. When it is shown with a royal crown, it represents the County Administrative Board. Blazon: 'Quartered, the arms of Västerbotten and the arms of Lappland.'

The culture of Norrbotten County is in many ways different from the rest of Sweden, since so many different cultures can be found there; the Sami culture, the Finnish culture (Tornedalians) and the Swedish settler-culture (combined with the climate, midnight sun, and mid winter darkness). Many of the old Swedish and Finnish dialects have survived in the area, and are spoken by a great number of people. The people in Norrbotten County have a saying: 'I am not a Swede; I am a Norrbothnian'.

The coast has the historical cities of Luleå and Piteå. Luleå's Gammelstad ('Old town'), which is 10 km north of the present downtown, has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Sami, Meänkieli, and Finnish may be used in dealing with government agencies, courts, municipalities, preschools and nursing homes in parts of Norrbotten County. Sami language has an official minority language status in Arjeplog, Gällivare, Jokkmokk, and Kiruna municipalities. Finnish has the same status in Gällivare, Haparanda, Kiruna, Pajala, and Övertorneå municipalities.

The main aim of the County Administrative Board is to fulfil the goals set in national politics by the Parliament and the Government, to coordinate the interests of the county, to promote the development of the county, to establish regional goals and safeguard the due process of law in the handling of each case. The County Administrative Board is a Government Agency headed by a Governor. See List of Norrbotten Governors.


In Norrbotten Province:
* Pajala (7,000)
* Övertorneå (5,500)
* Överkalix (4,000)
* Boden (28,000)
* Kalix (17,500)
* Haparanda (10,000)
* Älvsbyn (8,500)
* Luleå (75,500)
* Piteå (40,500)

In Lapland Province:
* Kiruna (23,500 inhabitants)
* Gällivare (19,500)
* Jokkmokk (5,500)
* Arjeplog (3,200)
* Arvidsjaur (7,000)

The Sami language can be used in contacts with local authorities in Arjeplog, Gällivare, Jokkmokk, and Kiruna. Similarly, Finnish and Meänkieli can be used in Gällivare, Haparanda, Kiruna, Pajala, and Övertorneå.


 Norrbotten County, Sweden Map

This webpage was updated 27th January 2020