Finnmark has a population of 73,514. There are 19 municipalities in total—Alta (17,359), Hammerfest,
(9076), S0r-Varanger (Kirkenes 9547), Vads0 (6122), and Kautokeino (3022 people—the largest municipality by area of Norway—9704 sq km) (Statistics Norway, 2003). Eighty percent of the population live in the coastal area and the islands; the largest Saami settlements are located inland on the Finnmark Plain. The administration center of the county is Vads0, and the county parliament has 35 members, with four seats in the Stortinget (national parliament). The Saami Council, established on October 1, 1989 with 39 representatives, is located in Karasjohka (Karasjok) and gives recommendations to the Stortinget (Norway) regarding Saami related issues.
Finnmark's State Church, to which 80% of the population belong, is Protestant. The county has a number of independent churches, and especially among the Saami population, Laestadianisme (inspired by L.L. Laestadius, 1800-1868) is prevalent. The northernmost Catholic church is located in Hammerfest, serving the almost 300 Catholics in the entire county. Finnmark and parts of Troms county are the areas in Norway where a distinct Norwegian model for regional development is used.
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