Sweden -- Geography --
Official Name: Kingdom of Sweden
Capital City: Stockholm
Languages: Swedish. Most Swedes speak Swedish, a Germanic language closely related to Norwegian, Danish, and Icelandic. English and German are also widely spoken. Finnish, Saami languages, and other languages are mother tongues for minority groups in Sweden.
Currency: Swedish Krona
Religions: Evangelical Lutheran, others. Lutheranism is the religion of about 68 percent of the Swedish people. Sweden is divided into 13 Lutheran dioceses, each one headed by a bishop.
Population: 9 031 088 (2008) This gives the country an overall population density of 22 persons per sq km (57 per sq mi). Sweden as a whole is thinly populated, but regional population densities vary greatly. The vast majority of the population lives in the southern third of Sweden, especially in the central lowlands, the plains of Skane, and coastal areas. It is especially dense around the cities of Stockholm, Goteborg, and Malmo. About 83 percent of Sweden’s people live in urban areas. Sweden’s population consists mainly of Scandinavians of Germanic descent. Sweden’s immigrant population and ethnic diversity have increased rapidly in recent decades. For many years, Sweden was a nation of emigrants
Land Area: 411,620 sq km
Landforms: Mountains on the northwestern border with Norway – drained by many rivers – over 25% of the country; flat, rolling land covers central and south with numerous large lakes and islands.
Land Division: 21 counties
Sweden -- History --
Soon after the recession of the last ice glace, Sweden became populated by hunters and gatherers, during the Stone Age (6000 BC – 4000 BC). The region developed rather slowly compared to southern Europe; while the Romans wrote poetry, Scandinavia had just entered the Iron Age.
Sweden was first mentioned in the 1st century, by Roman historian Tacitus, who wrote that the Suiones tribe lived out in the sea and were powerful in both arms and ships. This referred to the inhabitants of eastern Sweden: Svealand, primarily around lake Malaren; Sigtuna, and Birka. From this tribe, Sweden derived its name (see Sweden (etymology)). The southern parts, on the other hand, were inhabited by Geats (Gotar) in the Gotaland territory. Little is known for certain about that time, but chronicles based on Norse sagas and the Beowulf epos go back about 2,000 years.
During the Viking Age of the 9th and 10th century, Swedish vikings travelled east setting their mark on the Baltic countries, Russia whose name comes from the Finnish name for these Vikings: Rus (the Finnish name for Sweden is Ruotsi), the Black Sea, further through the rivers of Russia down south to Constantinople and southern Europe. The Swedish Vikings were somewhat different from their Norwegian and Danish counterparts as they were not as warrior minded as they were merchant and settler minded.
With Christianization in the 12th century, the country became consolidated, with its centre in the water-ways of the northern Baltic and the Gulf of Finland. In the 14th century Sweden, like the rest of Europe, was struck by the Black Death (the Plague), with all its effect.
During the middle ages, the expansion of Sweden into the northern wilderness of Laplandia, the Scandinavian peninsula, and present-day Finland continued. Finland was a part of Sweden proper from 1362 until 1809.
In 1389, Norway, Denmark and Sweden were united under a single monarch in a treaty known as the Kalmar Union. After several wars and disputes between these nations, King Gustav I of Sweden (House of Vasa) broke free in 1521 and established a nation state, considered the foundation of modern Sweden. Shortly afterwards he rejected Catholicism and led Sweden to the Protestant Reformation. Gustav I is considered to be Sweden's "Father of the Nation."
The Swedish Empire in 1658 (orange) overlaid by present day Sweden (red)Further information: Rise of Sweden as a Great Power, and Swedish Empire, and Sweden and the Great Northern War, and Absolute Monarchy in Sweden, and Sweden-Finland, and Union between Sweden and Norway.
The 17th century saw the rise of Sweden as one of the great powers in Europe, due to successful participation, initiated by King Gustav II Adolph, in the Thirty Years' War and by Charles X Gustav of Sweden in the The Deluge of Poland. Mighty as it was, it crumbled in the 18th century with Imperial Russia taking the reins of northern Europe in the Great Northern War, and finally in 1809 when the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland was created out of the eastern half of Sweden.
After Denmark was defeated in the Napoleonic wars, Norway was ceded to Sweden in the Treaty of Kiel. Norway had meanwhile declared itself independent and this led to the Campaign against Norway, which was fought in 1814. It ended with the Convention of Moss, which forced Norway into a union with Sweden that was not dissolved until 1905. But the campaign also signified the last of the Swedish wars and its 200 years of peace are arguably unique in the world today.
The 19th century saw a significant population increase, generally attributed to peace, vaccination, and potatoes, doubling the population from 1750 to 1850. Many people in the countryside, where most Swedes lived, found themselves unemployed. The result was poverty, alcoholism, and massive emigration; it is believed that between 1850 and 1910 more than one million Swedes moved to the United States alone. In the early 20th century, more Swedes lived in Chicago than in Gothenburg (Sweden's second largest city). Strong grassroots movements sprung up during the latter half of the 19th century (unions, temperance groups, and independent religious groups). They were all based on democratic principles and built a strong base for Sweden's migration into a modern parliamentary democracy, achieved by the time of World War I. As the Industrial Revolution progressed during the century, people gradually began moving into cities to work in factories, and became involved in Socialist unions. A threatening Socialist revolution was avoided in 1917, following the re-introduction of Parliamentarism, and the country was democratized.
Sweden remained neutral during World War I and World War II, although its neutrality during World War II has been disputed. Sweden made concessions to both sides during the war. Sweden secretly allowed Allied spies to work within Sweden, trained Norwegian soldiers at Swedish bases, allowed American planes to use Swedish air bases, and towards the end of the war was actually preparing a millitary action to liberate Denmark and Norway, in collaboration with the Allies. The Swedish intelligence agency was able to work in Germany and contributed information to the Allies. Sweden also gave supplies to Finland, and allowed granted asylum to thousands of refugees, including Jews from Denmark, and Swedes such as Raoul Wallenberg were responsible for saving many thousands of Jews. However, Sweden also supplied Nazi Germany with iron ore in exchange for coal. A great part of the iron used by Hitler to build war machines came from Swedish mines. Sweden cancelled trade agreements with Germany in 1943, when it was well known that Hitler could no longer win the war. These concessions were forced upon Sweden by the Nazis rather than voluntary, and were considered necessary to maintain Swedish neutrality. Sweden?s contribution to the Allies, and the humanitarian contributions, are unfortunately often overlooked in the shadow of the concessions to the Nazis. Sweden was part of the Marshall Plan but continued to stay non-aligned during the Cold War, and is still not a member of any military alliance. Following the second World War, Sweden took advantage of its natural resources and lack of war damage, making it possible to expand its industry to supply the rebuilding of Europe, leading it to be one of the richest countries in the world by 1960. During most of the post-war era, the country was ruled by the Swedish Social Democratic Party that established a welfare state, striving for a "well being for all"-policy. This policy led to recession in the early 1990s, and some of the socialist policies were relaxed. Sweden, despite its officially neutral stance, joined the European Union in 1995, arguing that neutrality was less important in the post-Cold War world. However, in a 2003 consultative referendum, Swedish citizens declined to adopt the Euro.
As other economies were re-established, Sweden was surpassed in the 1970s and had to adjust its politics in the 1990s; however, it still ranks among the top nations in terms of standard of living.
Sweden -- Economy --
Aided by peace and neutrality for the whole 20th century, Sweden has achieved an enviable standard of living under a mixed system of high-tech capitalism and extensive welfare benefits. It has a modern distribution system, excellent internal and external communications, and a skilled labor force. Timber, hydropower, and iron ore constitute the resource base of an economy heavily oriented toward foreign trade. Privately owned firms account for about 90% of industrial output, of which the engineering sector accounts for 50% of output and exports. Agriculture accounts for only 2% of GDP and 2% of the jobs. The government's commitment to fiscal discipline resulted in a substantial budgetary surplus in 2001, which was cut by more than half in 2002, due to the global economic slowdown, declining revenue, and increased spending. The Swedish central bank (the Riksbank) is focusing on price stability with its inflation target of 2%. On September 14, 2003, Swedish voters turned down entry into the euro system, concerned about the impact on democracy and sovereignty.
Just 7 percent of the land in Sweden is cultivated. Nevertheless, agricultural output is quite high. The leading farm commodities remain livestock and livestock products, especially dairy products. The major crops are wheat, barley, oats, potatoes, canola, rye, and sugar beets. Sweden is also a leading producer of fur pelts, particularly mink.
Sweden has the largest timber reserves in western Europe and is its largest producer of timber products. Timber production in 2003 was 67.3 million cubic meters. Most timber is used for lumber and for making pulp and paper.
In 2001 Sweden’s fish catch totaled 318,589 metric tons. Herring made up about two-thirds of the annual catch. Goteborg is an important fishing port.
In 2003 mineral production included 14.1 million metric tons of iron ore, 306 metric tons of silver, 83,000 tons of copper, and 50,400 tons of lead. The country also contains an estimated 15 percent of the world’s uranium reserves, which supply fuel for Sweden’s nuclear power industry.
Metallurgical and engineering industries, followed by the lumber, pulp, and paper industries, have long dominated Sweden’s export-oriented manufacturing sector. Sweden produces goods such as iron and high-grade steel, ball bearings, automobiles, agricultural machinery, airplanes, machine tools and precision gauges, appliances, and telecommunications equipment. The Swedish automobile companies Volvo and Saab are widely respected for their well-engineered products. Sweden is also home to vigorous chemical and pharmaceutical industries.
Leading Swedish companies are Ericsson, Skanska, Electrolux, Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget, Hennes and Mauritz (H & M).
Sweden is endowed with significant waterpower resources, and 46 percent of its electricity is produced in hydroelectric facilities. Some 46 percent is generated in nuclear power plants. Total annual electricity output in 2002 was 142.8 billion kilowatt-hours.
Exports - commodities: machinery 35%, motor vehicles, paper products, pulp and wood, iron and steel products, chemicals
Exports - partners: US 11.5%, Germany 10%, Norway 8.4%, UK 7.8%, Denmark 6.4%, Finland 5.7%, Netherlands 4.9%, France 4.9%, Belgium 4.5% (2003)
Imports - commodities: machinery, petroleum and petroleum products, chemicals, motor vehicles, iron and steel; foodstuffs, clothing
Imports - partners: Germany 18.7%, Denmark 9%, UK 8%, Norway 8%, Netherlands 6.8%, Finland 5.6%, France 5.5%, Belgium 4.2% (2003)
Sweden has more than 20 commercial banks with many branches, in addition to about 90 savings banks and a few other types of banking and loan organizations. Sweden’s main stock exchange is in Stockholm.
Sweden -- Culture --
Educational facilities in Sweden are extensive and excellent, and illiteracy in the country is practically nonexistent. Sweden first introduced compulsory education for all children in 1842. Today, all children must attend primary school, called the grundskola, from the age of 7 to 16. After the compulsory school there is a secondary school, called the gymnasium, to which nearly all children go. Following reforms implemented in the early and mid-1990s, all secondary school programs last for three years. Sweden has numerous state universities, where tuition is free. The two oldest ones are the University of Uppsala, founded in 1477, and the University of Lund, founded in 1666. The University of Stockholm, founded in 1877 as a private university, became a state university in 1960. Goteborg University was also originally founded as a private university in the 19th century.
Swedes are proud of their cultural heritage. The late arrival of industrialization helped to preserve fine craftsmanship, and the aesthetic standards of industrial design, even for mass-produced articles, are high. Until modern times Sweden’s relative poverty and isolation limited its role in European artistic life. Gifted Swedes often had to seek outlets for their talents abroad. Only in the late 19th century did any aspect of Swedish culture become influential internationally. Today, artistic activities receive large state subsidies, and corporations and local governments generously support painters, sculptors, musicians, and architects.
During the 20th century, Sweden made major contributions to art, design, literature, music, and motion pictures. Modern Swedish crafts such as ceramics, furniture, glass, silver, stainless steel, and textiles have received international recognition for their elemental form, simple beauty, and functional design.
Swedes have made many outstanding contributions in the areas of science, invention, and engineering. Carolus Linnaeus, a Swedish naturalist, originated the scientific classification of plants and animals. Baron Jons Jakob Berzelius developed the modern system of symbols and formulas in chemistry. John Ericsson was the inventor of the screw propeller and designed and built the famous American warship Monitor. Emanuel Swedenborg was an accomplished scientist who made important contributions to mathematics, chemistry, and other scientific fields before achieving even greater fame as a theologian. Among other Swedish inventions are safety matches, ball bearings, milk and cream separators, steam turbines, automated sea beacons, and refrigerators.
Among the most famous of all Swedes is Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite and smokeless gunpowder, who established the Nobel Prizes. There are five prizes from the Nobel Foundation: Chemistry, Physics, Medicine and Physiology, Literature and the Peace Prize. In 1968 the Sveriges Riksbank, the central bank of Sweden, created a sixth Nobel award for the field of economics.
The Nobel Prizes have been presented to the Laureates at ceremonies on December 10 each year. This day was chosen since it is the birthday of Alfred Nobel (1833-1896). The first Nobel Prizes were presented in 1901.
Despite the male dominance among the winners, the prize for literature has frequently been given to women and in the field of science Marie Curie has received the Nobel Prize twice (the first time together with her husband).
29 times the prize has gone to Swedes.
In motion pictures Swedish artists have won international acclaim, particularly in the era preceding the 1960s, after which a great many Swedish actors and directors moved to Hollywood, California. Important directors include Ingmar Bergman (among Bergman's masterworks are Wild Strawberries, Smiles of a Summer Night, The Seventh Seal, Cries and Whispers, Autumn Sonata, Scenes from a Marriage, and Fanny and Alexander), Lasse Hallstrom, Arne Edvard Sucksdorff, and Arne Mattsson. Cinematographer Sven Nykvist is known for his collaborations with Bergman, Hallstrom, and American director Woody Allen. Prominent Swedish film actors include Ingrid Bergman (her most famous film is “Casablanca”, she won three Oscar statuettes in the course of her career), Greta Garbo, Mai Zetterling (also a director), Max von Sydow, and Lena Olin. Goteborg stages a well-attended annual film festival.
In literature, playwright and writer August Strindberg is probably Sweden’s best-known figure. Swedish authors to win a Nobel Prize in literature include novelist Selma Lagerlof; novelist, poet, and playwright Par Lagerkvist; and author Harry Martinson. Astrid Lindgren is known to children in many countries as the author of the famous Pippi Longstocking, series of children’s novels. Vilhelm Moberg won recognition for his books about Swedish immigrants in the United States.
The greatest Swedish contribution to music has been in the field of song. Choir singing, most often organized by church congregations, remains a very popular social and cultural activity in Sweden. Famous Swedish singers have included Jenny Lind, Christina Nilsson, Jussi Bjorling, Birgit Nilsson, and Lena Willemark. Swedish folk songs are typically ballads accompanied by the fiddle, a traditional instrument.
In the 18th century, a period of cultural flowering, King Gustav III founded the Academy of Music, the Stockholm Opera, and the Royal Ballet. Swedish Italian ballerina Marie Taglioni was an important figure in dance in the 19th century. A Swedish composer who achieved international fame was symphonist Franz Berwald. Modern composers include Hugo Alfven, whose music is based on Swedish folk songs; Hilding Rosenberg; and Karl-Birger Blomdahl.
Since the 1970s, a number of Swedish pop and rock music groups have achieved international acclaim. Perhaps most famous of these are the bands Abba, Roxette, and Ace of Base. In recent years, a vibrant heavy metal and punk music scene has developed in Sweden.
Sweden -- Political system, law and government --
Sweden is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary democracy. It is governed under the constitution of 1975, which replaced the constitution of 1809. The 1975 constitution eliminated the last vestiges of monarchical power in governing the country. The monarch remained head of state, an exclusively ceremonial post, but no longer was supreme commander of the armed forces and ceased to preside over cabinet meetings. All power was defined as emanating from the people. The constitution includes a lengthy bill of rights.
The monarchy is hereditary in the direct line of the house of Bernadotte. The constitution was amended in 1978 to permit the first born royal child, whether male or female, to succeed to the throne; the measure went into effect in 1980. Previously, only males could inherit the throne.
In Sweden executive power is vested in the cabinet, or government, which is responsible to the unicameral (single-chamber) national legislature, the Riksdag. The cabinet is composed of a prime minister and department ministers and ministers without portfolio. When a new government is formed, the prime minister is nominated by the speaker of the Riksdag, and members of the Riksdag must then approve the nomination. To remain in office, the prime minister and cabinet must retain the confidence of the Riksdag.
In addition to the cabinet ministries some 50 central agencies administer government-operated services. These agencies, which are headed by government-appointed directors, are nominally subordinate to the cabinet ministries but actually function independently of them.
In 1971 the Riksdag, formerly a bicameral (two-chamber) body, was changed to a unicameral legislature with 350 popularly elected members; the 1975 constitution reduced the number of members to 349 to prevent tie votes. Members of the Riksdag are elected to terms of four years by the voters under a system of proportional representation. All citizens age 18 or older are eligible to vote.
The Swedish judiciary is entirely independent of the other branches of government and comprises a three-tier system of courts: the Supreme Court, six courts of appeal, and district and city courts. The Supreme Court is the court of final appeal in all cases and may also consider new evidence. The appeals courts, in addition to having appellate jurisdiction, are responsible for the administration of the court system in their areas and for the further training of judges. District and city courts are courts of first instance. They are presided over by judges who are assisted by a popularly elected panel, usually consisting of from three to five laypersons. Juries are used only in press libel suits.
A special feature of the Swedish judicial system, copied in recent years by other countries, is the official known as the ombudsman. This official’s duty is to oversee how the courts and administrators observe and apply the laws. An ombudsman may investigate complaints by any citizen and initiate investigations and can bring evidence of error or wrongdoing before a court. Ombudsmen are appointed by the Riksdag for a term of four years.
For the purposes of local government, Sweden is divided into 21 counties: Stockholm, Uppsala, Sodermanland, Ostergotland, Jonkoping, Kronoberg, Kalmar, Gotland, Blekinge, Skane, Halland, Vastra Gotaland, Varmland, Orebro, Vastmanland, Dalarna, Gavleborg, Vasternorrland, Jamtland, Vasterbotten, and Norrbotten. Each county has a governor appointed by the national government and a popularly elected council. County governments have taxation powers and provide services such as education, public health care, and public transportation. Sweden is further divided into approximately 300 municipalities headed by popularly elected local councils.
The leading Swedish political groups are the Social Democratic Party, an organization with strong links to Swedish labour unions; the Moderate Party, which emphasizes free enterprise and smaller government; the Liberal Party, which supports free enterprise and broad social welfare programs; and the Christian Democratic Party, a group backed by a number of Protestant denominations. Other influential groups include the Left Party, formerly the Communist Party; the rural-oriented Center Party; and the environmentalist Green Party. Many small extreme right-wing and left-wing parties also compete for votes.