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Telemark fylke
Rjukan, Gaustatoppen
Coat of arms of Telemark fylke
Coat of arms
Telemark within Norway
Telemark within Norway
Country Norway
County Telemark
Region Østlandet
County ID NO-08
Administrative centre Skien
 • Governor Sven Tore Løkslid
 • County mayor Gunn Marit Helgesen
 • Total 15,299 km2 (5,907 sq mi)
 • Land 13,854 km2 (5,349 sq mi)
Area rank #10 in Norway, 4.55% of Norway's land area
Population (2014)
 • Total 171,333
 • Rank 13 (3.63% of country)
 • Density 12/km2 (30/sq mi)
 • Change (10 years) 1.8 %
Demonym(s) Teledøl or Telemarking
Time zone CET (UTC+01)
 • Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+02)
Official language form Neutral
Income (per capita) 139,900 NOK
GDP (per capita) 219,404 NOK (2001)
GDP national rank 12 (2.38% of country)
Data from Statistics Norway

Telemark [²teːləmɑrk] (About this sound listen) is a traditional region and county in Norway, bordering Vestfold, Buskerud, Hordaland, Rogaland and Aust-Agder. The county administration is in Skien. Until 1919 the county was known as Bratsberg amt. The name 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. Historically the name Telemark only referred to Upper Telemark, while the coastal areas of the modern county were considered separate regions.

Telemark county will merge with neighboring Vestfold County on January 1, 2020 as part of a nationwide regional reform, to become part of the combined Telemark and Vestfold county.[1][2]


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 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 Þelamǫrk. The first element is the genitive plural case of þelir while the last element is mǫrk "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 (Norse Brattsberg), since this was the seat of the governor. The first element is the genitive case of brattr m "steep mountain", the last element is berg n "mountain". (The name is referring to a steep mountainside behind the farm.) 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]
Fjelltun in Drangedal.

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.


Historical population
Source: Statistics Norway.[6]
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[edit]


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 Grenland
6 Nome kommune Nome 6,527 389 Aust-Telemark
7 Tinn kommune Tinn 6,022 1,858 Vest-Telemark
8 Bø i Telemark 5,595 260 Aust-Telemark
9 Sauherad kommune Sauherad 4,666 292 Aust-Telemark
10 Drangedal kommune Drangedal 4,159 998 Grenland
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


External links[edit]

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