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Statsminister is the local language title used for the heads of government in Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland (in Finland Swedish).

Although it literally means 'state minister', it should not be confused with the English title Minister of State in Britain, which usually indicates a subordinate minister, or the French Ministre d'État, which is used as an honorific.

In English, "Statsminister" is normally translated as Prime Minister.


The title statsminister has been given to the head of government in Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland since the late 19th or early 20th century:

The term "statsminister" is also used in those four countries to refer to the Prime Minister of Iceland (Forsætisráðherra), since Iceland is also a Nordic country, whereas most other heads of government, such as that of the UK or France, are referred to as premiärminister/premierminister.

History of adoption[edit]

The title itself was first used in Sweden in the 1809 Instrument of Government, which reduced the power of the King and saw the introduction of two ministers answerable to the Riksdag: the justitiestatsminister ("Statsminister of Justice", i.e. Minister of Justice) and the statsminister för utrikes ärendena ("Statsminister for Foreign Affairs", i.e. Minister of Foreign Affairs). In 1876, Sweden's first de facto head of government, as a separate post from the King, was appointed with the title statsminister. Consequently, the prefix "stats" was dropped from the other two titles, to show that they were subordinate to the new head of government.

In Norway, which was in a union with Sweden from 1814 to 1905, a similar reform was proposed already in 1859, but the title "statsminister" for the head of government wasn't adopted until 1884.

In Denmark, the head of the government was titled premierminister (i.e. prime minister) from 1848 to 1854, and konseilspræsident (i.e. President of the Council of Ministers) from 1855 to 1918, when the title was changed to statsminister in line with the practice in neighbouring Sweden and Norway.

When Finland declared itself independent from Russia at the end of 1917, governmental titles were kept from the local government of the Grand Duchy of Finland, but in 1919 it was decided that the titles in Swedish should follow the terminology of Sweden and the other Scandinavian countries, instead of being associated with the former Russian rule.


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