This Is Viken: Norway’s New Super County

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Map of Viken county, Norway
The new Viken from 2020

Viken is the new name for Akershus, Buskerud and Østfold in south-eastern Norway.

As part of Norway’s local and regional government reform, three counties (fylker) surrounding Oslo merged to form Viken from January 2020.

It is the latest in a series of changes to Norway’s counties. The first change was the merger of Nord- and Sør-Trøndelag back in 2017.

More than one million people

With an estimated population of more than 1.2 million people, the new Viken county has become Norway’s largest county in terms of population.

Fredrikstad old city from above
Fredrikstad will be part of the new Viken county

There is also some consolidation taking place at the local level. The 61 local authorities in the three existing counties will be reduced to 49 in the new county.

Read more: Norway’s new counties

The main reason for this is that some of the existing rural municipalities are very small. 17 of them have a population of less than 5,000.

An old name for a new region

Viken was the former name of the region encompassing much of southeast Norway and parts of southern Sweden. Modern historians disagree on the exact original boundaries, but it more or less included the land on both sides of the Oslofjord.

Viken (also Vika) is the definite form of the Old Norse word vik. This means inlet, bay or creek, and presumably used to refer to the Oslofjord itself. There is a neighbourhood called Vika close to the Oslofjord in Oslo.

A reform of regional government

As of January 2020, the Norwegian parliament’s reform reduced the number of counties to 11 (including Oslo) from 2020.

The reason given is to strengthen local democracy. That might sound counter-intuitive given a reduction in regions, but there are more changes ahead.

Following the changes, some functions currently held by central government will be transferred to county level. Social development is one such function.

Aerial view of Drammen, Norway
Drammen will be part of the new Viken county

“This is because the county councils are best suited to facilitate positive social change in all parts of the country on the basis of their regional advantages, qualifications and priorities. In this way, they can become a more equal partner for central government authorities”, said a spokesperson for Viken.

Controversial changes

Not everyone is happy with the changes, however. The Labour Party, Center Party and Socialist Left party were all against the reforms. Had a Labour-led coalition taken power after the 2017 election it is likely they would have been repealed. It didn’t.

Following the announcement of the restructuring back in 2016, the parliament encouraged counties to take the initiative. The two Trøndelag counties raced ahead to merge, but there were disagreements in many areas that had less obvious mergers.

There have also been disagreements about names of the new counties. This is especially so with the merger of Troms and Finnmark. People seem to like the name Viken, however.

About David Nikel

Originally from the UK, David now lives in Trondheim and was the original founder of Life in Norway back in 2011. He now works as a professional writer on all things Scandinavia.

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1 thought on “This Is Viken: Norway’s New Super County”

  1. Thanks so much for including this news in your post. I do have some living relatives in Norway but have only had rare contact by email from two of them. I have joined the genealogy website, “My Heritage” and thereby discovered thousands of relatives, some are living and some have passed away. My point is, that they almost all live in Al, or Sigdal in Buskerud. I must look up what county Lillehammer is in. My grandfather was born in that particular county somewhere near Lillehammer. At this moment I don’t remember the name of the village. I know I do not completely understand the difference of town names and county names or “district” names? I have one cousin in Eggedal, which is in Buskerud, but is it also considered to be in Sigdal??? I need to do more research for the explanations I lack. Thanks for writing this very informative blog!


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