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Telemark fylke
Scenery of Rjukan and Gaustatoppen in Upper Telemark district
Scenery of Rjukan and Gaustatoppen in Upper Telemark district
Telemark within Norway
Telemark within Norway
County IDNO-08
Administrative centreSkien
 o GovernorPer Arne Olsen
 o County mayorSven Tore Løkslid
 o Total15,299 km2 (5,907 sq mi)
 o Land13,854 km2 (5,349 sq mi)
Area rank#10 in Norway, 4.55% of Norway's land area
 o Total171,333
 o Rank13 (3.63% of country)
 o Density12/km2 (30/sq mi)
 o Change (10 years)
1.8 %
Demonym(s)Teledøl or Telemarking
Time zoneUTC+01 (CET)
 o Summer (DST)UTC+02 (CEST)
Official language formNeutral
Income (per capita)139,900 NOK
GDP (per capita)219,404 NOK (2001)
GDP national rank12 (2.38% of country)
Data from Statistics Norway

Telemark [²te:l?m?rk] is a traditional region and county in Norway. The region borders Vestfold, Buskerud, Hordaland, Rogaland and Aust-Agder. Telemark means the "mark of the Thelir", the ancient North Germanic tribe that inhabited what is now known as Upper Telemark in the Migration Period and the Viking Age. Telemark will cease to be an administrative entity on 1 January 2020, when the county is set to merge with neighboring Vestfold to form the combined Telemark og Vestfold administrative region.[1][2]

Historically the name Telemark only referred to Upper Telemark, while the coastal areas of the modern county were considered separate regions. The modern county was established as the fief Bratsberg in the late Middle Ages, during Norway's union with Denmark. With the introduction of absolute monarchy in 1662 it became a county, and it was renamed Telemark in 1919. The county administration is in the port town Skien, which was in the early modern period Norway's most important city, ahead of Christiania.

Upper Telemark or Telemark proper has a varied and often scenic landscape, with many hills, mountains, valleys and lakes. It traditionally lacked cities and is marked by its distinct cultural traditions in regards to language, music, clothing, handcrafts, food, architecture and its traditionally egalitarian farmer society dating back to the Viking Age. It retained Norse culture and linguistic heritage to a larger degree than other regions in Norway, and was historically regarded as the most violent society in Norway. The region resisted both Christianization and later the Reformation longer than other Norwegian regions. It has more buildings from medieval times than any other Norwegian region, and is known as the birthplace of skiing and the Bunad movement.

Grenland, the flatter coastal areas of the modern county, is traditionally characterized by its wealthy cities and its involvement in seafaring and trade with the Low Countries, northern Germany and the British Isles, with a more urban and continental culture, also influenced by its closer contact with Denmark. It was also Norway's most important industrial region since the 16th century, with its ironworks and sawmills.


Summer landscape in Vinje, Upper Telemark
Winter landscape in Upper Telemark

The modern county of Telemark consists of several distinct historical regions. It takes its name from the largest of them, which is now called Upper Telemark, but which was historically simply called Telemark. Telemark is named for the Thelir (Þilir in Old Norse), the ancient North Germanic tribe that inhabited what is now known as Upper Telemark since the Migration Period and during the Viking Age. The Norse form of the name was Þelam?rk. The first element is the genitive plural case of Þilir while the last element is m?rk "woodland, borderland, march".

Traditional Telemark, i.e. Upper Telemark, is located in the inland of the modern county, and comprises more than two thirds of it according to its traditional definition. Both in medieval times and later (Upper) Telemark was the region of Norway with the most self-owning farmers.[3] It retained Norse culture to a larger degree than any other region in Norway, with respect to its more egalitarian organisation of society, religion, traditional values and language. Thus the people of Telemark were often described during the Middle Ages and early modern era as the most violent in Norway.[4] The dialects of Upper Telemark are also the dialects of Norwegian that are closest to Old Norse. The farmers of Telemark were marked by a strong-willed conservatism and belief in their traditional values that often defied the central authorities of Denmark-Norway; for example they held on to aspects of both Old Norse religion and later of Catholicism longer than other regions in Norway. (Upper) Telemark traditionally lacks cities entirely.

Grenland and the Skien fjord are flatter regions located closer to or at the coast. Historically Grenland referred to what is now called Midt-Telemark, but over time the name Grenland has come to refer to the Skien fjord area. The latter is traditionally characterized by its cities and its involvement in seafaring and trade. It also includes several larger agricultural properties and estates, as well as industry. The culture and social structure are more urban, far less traditional, more influenced by contact with continental Europe and far less egalitarian. The most important city of the region, Skien, was historically one of Norway's most important cities, although its importance declined after the Napoleonic Wars. The playwright Henrik Ibsen was a native of Skien, and many of his plays are set in places reminiscent of the city and area.

During the Dano-Norwegian union the traditional regions of Telemark and Grenland/the Skien fjord became the fief (len) and later county (amt) of Bratsberg (Bradsberg). The fief and county was named after the farm Bratsberg, since this was the seat of the governor. In 1919 Bratsberg county was renamed Telemark. Despite this, Grenland retains a separate identity that is distinct from Telemark proper; the minority in the Storting voted for the name Grenland-Telemark in 1918.

(Upper) Telemark, particularly Kviteseid, is known as the birthplace of skiing as a modern sport. Telemark lent its name to Telemark skiing, a style invented by Sondre Norheim, and the characteristic Telemark landing of ski jumping. Telemark is also known as the centre of the Bunad movement. Telemark has more buildings from medieval times than any other Norwegian region.


Nisser Lake in Nissedal is Telemark's largest lake at 76 km2.[5]

The county is located in southeastern Norway, extending from Hardangervidda to the Skagerrak coast. The coastline extends from Langesundsfjorden to Gjernestangen at the border with Aust-Agder. Telemark has a very broken and heterogeneous landscape, including many hills and valleys.


The international road E18 goes through the southern parts of Telemark, namely Grenland and the municipality of Kragerø. E134, another important motorway and the fastest route between Oslo and Bergen, goes through the municipalities of Vinje, Tokke, Kviteseid, Seljord, Hjartdal and Notodden. RV36, stretching from Porsgrunn to Seljord, links the E18 and E134 motorways.

Telemark is well served by railways. The Sørlandet Line runs through the traditional districts of Vestmar and Midt-Telemark, serving the municipalities of Drangedal, Nome, and Sauherad. Grenland is primarily served by the Vestfold Line, but also has connections through the Bratsberg Line which runs between Skien and Notodden.

From Langesund, Fjordline operates ferry services to Sweden and Denmark.

The main bus lines in the county are operated by Telemark Bilruter, serving western and middle parts of the county, and Nettbuss which serves the middle, eastern and southern parts of the county. Drangedal Bilruter serves the Vestmar region.


Religion in Telemark[7][8]
religion percent

The largest population centres are Skien, Porsgrunn, Notodden, Rjukan and Kragerø. Other important places are , Seljord, Fyresdal and Vinje.


The coat-of-arms is from modern times (1970). It shows an old type of battle axe, significant for the county.

Notable people from Telemark


Telemark county with Upper Telemark (traditional Telemark) in red
Winter resort hotel at Gautefall (Drangedal).
Road in the village of Treungen (Nissedal).

The county is conventionally divided into traditional districts. Traditionally the county is mainly divided into Upper Telemark (historically called simply Telemark or more recently Telemark proper) and Grenland. Upper Telemark is sometimes subdivided into Vest-Telemark and Aust-Telemark. The name Lower Telemark traditionally refers to Grenland and Midt-Telemark, but was more of an administrative region than a cultural one. Regardless of definition, Upper Telemark constitutes the largest part by far. For example, the modern provostship of Upper Telemark comprises 12 municipalities and more than 80% of Telemark, also including Midt-Telemark.

An additional district, Vestmar is disputed. The district borders of this county are highly overlapping and to a certain extent undefined and/or disputed.

Rank Name Inhabitants[11] Area km2 District
1 Scheen, Skien kommune Skien 63,962 722 Grenland
2 Porsgrunn kommune Porsgrunn 35,177 161 Grenland
3 Bamble kommune Bamble 14,107 282 Grenland
4 Notodden kommune Notodden 12,390 856 Aust-Telemark
5 Kragerø kommune Kragerø 10,620 289 Vestmar
6 Nome kommune Nome 6,527 389 Midt-Telemark
7 Tinn kommune Tinn 6,022 1,858 Aust-Telemark
8 Bø i Telemark 5,595 260 Midt-Telemark
9 Sauherad kommune Sauherad 4,666 292 Midt-Telemark
10 Drangedal kommune Drangedal 4,159 998 Vestmar
11 Vinje kommune Vinje 3,641 2,740 Vest-Telemark
12 Seljord kommune Seljord 2,966 672 Vest-Telemark
13 Kviteseid kommune Kviteseid 2,522 626 Vest-Telemark
14 Siljan kommune Siljan 2,412 203 Grenland
15 Tokke kommune Tokke 2,337 907 Vest-Telemark
16 Hjartdal kommune Hjartdal 1,587 741 Aust-Telemark
17 Nissedal kommune Nissedal 1,404 789 Vest-Telemark
18 Fyresdal kommune Fyresdal 1,381 1,110 Vest-Telemark
Total Telemark fylke Telemark 168,231 13,173



  • Atrå
  • Austbygdi
  • Bamble
  • Brevik
  • Brunkeberg
  • Dal
  • Drangedal
  • Eidanger
  • Eidsborg
  • Flatdal
  • Fyresdal
  • Gjerpen
  • Gransherad
  • Grungedal
  • Heddal
  • Helgen
  • Herre
  • Hitterdal, see Heddal
  • Hjartdal
  • Holla (Hollen)
  • Hovin
  • Hægland
  • Høydalsmo
  • Kilebygda
  • Kragerø
  • Kroken, see Drangedal
  • Kviteseid (Hvidesøe)
  • Old Kviteseid (Hvidesøe)
  • Langesund
  • Lisleherad (Lilleherred)
  • Lunde
  • Lårdal
  • Mo
  • Moland
  • Mæl
  • Mælum
  • Møsstrand
  • Nes
  • Nesland
  • Nissedal
  • Notodden
  • Our Lady of Good Counsel Church, Porsgrunn
  • Porsgrunn
  • Rauland
  • Rjukan
  • Sannidal (Sannikedal)
  • Saude
  • Sauherad (Saude)
  • Sauland
  • Seljord
  • Siljan
  • Skafså
  • Skien
  • Skåtøy
  • Slemdal, see Siljan
  • Solum
  • Stathelle
  • Tinn
  • Treungen
  • Tuddal
  • Tørdal (Tørrisdal)
  • Vestre Porsgrunn
  • Veum
  • Vinje
  • Vrådal
  • Ytre Flåbygd
  • Østre Porsgrunn
  • Øyfjell
  • Åmotsdal
  • Brevik Branch (LDS, 1852-1864)
  • Langesund Branch (LDS, 1852-1907)
  • Skien (Frie Apostoliske, 1856-1892)
  • Porsgrunn and Skien (Great Britain Consulate Birth Register, 1876-1891)
  • Kragerø (Great Britain Death Register), 1895


Former Municipalities


  1. ^ Selland, Svein-Gunnar; Lundbo, Sten (8 June 2018). "Telemark" – via Store norske leksikon.
  2. ^ "Nå er Telemark og Vestfold slått sammen". 8 June 2017.
  3. ^ Hans Jacob Orning, "Et lokalt maktspill",, 28 November 2016
  4. ^ Hans Jacob Orning, "De voldelige telemarksbøndene",, 28 November 2016
  5. ^ Nilsen, Jan Erik; Lundbo, Sten (5 March 2018). "Nissedal" – via Store norske leksikon.
  6. ^ "Statistikkbanken". 26 May 2012. Archived from the original on 26 May 2012.
  7. ^ Statistics Norway - Church of Norway. Archived 2012-07-16 at
  8. ^ "Statistics Norway - Members of religious and life stance communities outside the Church of Norway, by religion/life stance. County. 2006-2010".
  9. ^ "History - Snowshoe Thompson".
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Statistics Norway". 1 January 2010.

External links

Coordinates: 59°20?00?N 08°30?00?E / 59.33333°N 8.50000°E / 59.33333; 8.50000

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