Tìm hiểu Thuỵ Điển(Sweden)
Sweden (Swedish: Sverige [ˈsvæ̌rjɛ] (listen)), officially the Kingdom of Sweden (Swedish: Konungariket Sverige [ˈkôːnɵŋaˌriːkɛt ˈsvæ̌rjɛ] (listen)), is a Nordic country in Northern Europe. It borders Norway to the west and north, Finland to the east, and is connected to Denmark in the southwest by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund. At 450,295 square kilometres (173,860 sq mi), Sweden is the largest country in Northern Europe, the third-largest country in the European Union, and the fifth largest country in Europe. The capital and largest city is Stockholm. Sweden has a total population of 10.4 million, the largest of the Nordic countries; and a low population density of 25.5 inhabitants per square kilometre (66/sq mi). 87% of Swedes live in urban areas, which cover 1.5% of the entire land area. The highest concentration is in the central and southern half of the country.
Sweden is part of the geographical area of Fennoscandia. The climate is in general mild for its northerly latitude due to significant maritime influence. In spite of the high latitude, Sweden often has warm continental summers, being located in between the North Atlantic, the Baltic Sea, and vast Russia. The general climate and environment vary significantly from the south and north due to the vast latitudinal difference, and much of Sweden has reliably cold and snowy winters. Southern Sweden is predominantly agricultural, while the north is heavily forested and includes a portion of the Scandinavian Mountains.
Germanic peoples have inhabited Sweden since prehistoric times, emerging into history as the Geats (Swedish: Götar) and Swedes (Svear) and constituting the sea peoples known as the Norsemen. An independent Swedish state emerged during the early 12th century. After the Black Death in the middle of the 14th century killed about a third of the Scandinavian population, the dominance of the Hanseatic League in Northern Europe threatened Scandinavia economically and politically. This led to the forming of the Scandinavian Kalmar Union in 1397, which Sweden left in 1523. When Sweden became involved in the Thirty Years’ War on the Protestant side, an expansion of its territories began and eventually the Swedish Empire was formed. This became one of the great powers of Europe until the early 18th century. Swedish territories outside the Scandinavian Peninsula were gradually lost during the 18th and 19th centuries, ending with the annexation of present-day Finland by Russia in 1809. The last war in which Sweden was directly involved was in 1814 when Norway was militarily forced into a personal union, which peacefully dissolved in 1905. Since then, Sweden has been at peace, maintaining an official policy of neutrality in foreign affairs. In 2014, Sweden celebrated 200 years of peace, breaking even Switzerland’s record for peace. Sweden was formally neutral through both world wars and the Cold War, although Sweden has since 2009 openly moved towards cooperation with NATO.
Sweden is a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary democracy, with legislative power vested in the 349-member unicameral Riksdag. It is a unitary state, currently divided into 21 counties and 290 municipalities. Sweden maintains a Nordic social welfare system that provides universal health care and tertiary education for its citizens. It has the world’s eleventh-highest per capita income and ranks very highly in quality of life, health, education, protection of civil liberties, economic competitiveness, income equality, gender equality, prosperity and human development. Sweden joined the European Union on 1 January 1995, but has rejected NATO membership, as well as Eurozone membership following a referendum. It is also a member of the United Nations, the Nordic Council, the Council of Europe, the World Trade Organization and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
The word Sweden is derived from 17th century Middle Dutch and Middle Low German. As early as 1287, references are found in Middle Dutch referring to a lande van sweden (“land of (the) Swedes”), with swede as the singular form. In Old English the country was named Swéoland and Swíoríce (Old Norse Svíþjóð). Anglo-Norman of the 12th and 13th centuries used Suane, Swane (with the adjective as Suaneis). In Scots Swane, Swaine, appears in the 16th century. Early Modern English used Swedeland.
The Swedish name Sverige (a compound of the words Svea and rike, with lenition of the consonant [k], first recorded in the cognate Swēorice in Beowulf) literally means “realm of the Swedes“, excluding the Geats in Götaland.
Variations of the name Sweden are used in most languages, with the exception of Danish and Norwegian using Sverige, Faroese Svøríki, Icelandic Svíþjóð, and the more notable exception of some Finnic languages where Ruotsi (Finnish) and Rootsi (Estonian) are used, names commonly considered as referring to the people from the coastal areas of Roslagen, Uppland, who were known as the Rus’, and through them etymologically related to the English name for Russia.
A Vendel-era helmet, at the Swedish Museum of National Antiquities
Sweden’s prehistory begins in the Allerød oscillation, a warm period around 12,000 BC, with Late Palaeolithic reindeer-hunting camps of the Bromme culture at the edge of the ice in what is now the country’s southernmost province, Scania. This period was characterised by small bands of hunter-gatherer-fishers using flint technology.
Sweden is first described in a written source in Germania by Tacitus in 98 AD. In Germania 44 and 45 he mentions the Swedes (Suiones) as a powerful tribe (distinguished not merely for their arms and men, but for their powerful fleets) with ships that had a prow at each end (longships). Which kings (kuningaz) ruled these Suiones is unknown, but Norse mythology presents a long line of legendary and semi-legendary kings going back to the last centuries BC. As for literacy in Sweden itself, the runic script was in use among the south Scandinavian elite by at least the second century AD, but all that has come down to the present from the Roman Period is curt inscriptions on artefacts, mainly of male names, demonstrating that the people of south Scandinavia spoke Proto-Norse at the time, a language ancestral to Swedish and other North Germanic languages.
In the sixth century, Jordanes names two tribes living in Scandza, both of which are now considered to be synonymous with the Swedes: the Suetidi and Suehans. Suetidi is considered to be the Latin form of Svíþjóð, the Old Norse name for the Swedes. Jordanes describes the Suetidi and Dani as being of the same stock and the tallest of people. He later mentions other Scandinavian tribes as being of a same stature. The Suehans were known to the Roman world as suppliers of black fox skins and, according to Jordanes, had very fine horses, similar to those of the Thyringi of Germania (alia vero gens ibi moratur Suehans, quae velud Thyringi equis utuntur eximiis). The Icelandic historian Snorri Sturluson also wrote that the Swedish king Adils (Eadgils) had the finest horses of his day.
Viking expeditions (blue lines)
The Swedish Viking Age lasted roughly from the eighth century to the 11th century. It is believed that Swedish Vikings and Gutar mainly travelled east and south, going to Finland, Estonia, the Baltic countries, Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, the Black Sea and even as far as Baghdad. Their routes passed through the Dnieper south to Constantinople, on which they carried out numerous raids. The Byzantine Emperor Theophilos noticed their great skills in war, and invited them to serve as his personal bodyguard, known as the Varangian Guard. The Swedish Vikings, called Rus are believed to be the founding fathers of Kievan Rus’. The Arab traveller Ibn Fadlan described these Vikings as follows:
I have seen the Rus as they came on their merchant journeys and encamped by the Itil. I have never seen more perfect physical specimens, tall as date palms, blond and ruddy; they wear neither tunics nor caftans, but the men wear a garment which covers one side of the body and leaves a hand free. Each man has an axe, a sword, and a knife, and keeps each by him at all times. The swords are broad and grooved, of Frankish sort.
The Tjängvide image stone dating from 800 to 1099, example of Viking art
The actions of these Swedish Vikings are commemorated on many runestones in Sweden, such as the Greece runestones and the Varangian runestones. There was also considerable participation in expeditions westwards, which are commemorated on stones such as the England runestones. The last major Swedish Viking expedition appears to have been the ill-fated expedition of Ingvar the Far-Travelled to Serkland, the region south-east of the Caspian Sea. Its members are commemorated on the Ingvar runestones, none of which mentions any survivor. What happened to the crew is unknown, but it is believed that they died of sickness.
The Kingdom of Sweden
It is not known when and how the kingdom of Sweden was born, but the list of Swedish monarchs is drawn from the first kings known to have ruled both Svealand (Sweden) and Götaland (Gothia) as one province, beginning with Eric the Victorious. Sweden and Gothia were two separate nations long before that and since antiquity. It is not known how long they existed: the epic poem Beowulf describes semi-legendary Swedish-Geatish wars in the sixth century. Götaland in this sense mainly includes the provinces of Östergötland (East Gothia) and Västergötland (West Gothia). The island of Gotland was disputed by other than Swedes, at this time (Danish, Hanseatic, and Gotland-domestic). Småland was at that time of little interest to anyone due to the deep pine forests, and only the city of Kalmar with its castle was of importance. The south-west parts of the Scandinavian peninsula consisted of three Danish provinces (Scania, Blekinge and Halland). North of Halland, Denmark had a direct border to Norway and its province Bohuslän. But there were Swedish settlements along the southern coastline of Norrland.
Gamla Uppsala (Old Uppsala), a site of religious and political importance in the early days of Sweden
During the early stages of the Scandinavian Viking Age, Ystad in the Danish province Scania and Paviken on Gotland were flourishing centres of trade, but they were not parts of the early Swedish Kingdom. Remains of what is believed to have been a large market dating from 600 to 700 CE have been found in Ystad. In Paviken, an important centre of trade in the Baltic region during the ninth and tenth century, remains have been found of a large Viking Age harbour with shipbuilding yards and handicraft industries. Between 800 and 1000, trade brought an abundance of silver to Gotland, and according to some scholars, the Gotlanders of this era hoarded more silver than the rest of the population of Scandinavia combined.
St Ansgar is usually credited with introducing Christianity in 829, but the new religion did not begin to fully replace paganism until the 12th century. During the 11th century, Christianity became the prevalent religion, and from 1050 Sweden is counted as a Christian nation. The period between 1100 and 1400 was characterised by internal power struggles and competition among the Nordic kingdoms. In the years 1150–1293 according to the legend of Eric IX and the Eric Chronicles Swedish kings made a first, second and third crusade to pagan Finland against Finns, Tavastians and Karelians and started conflicts with the Rus’ who no longer had any connection with Sweden. The Swedish colonisation of the coastal areas of Finland started also during the 12th and 13th century. In the 14th century, the Swedish colonisation of coastal areas of Finland began to be more organised and in the end of the century several of the coastal areas of Finland were inhabited mostly by Swedes.
Skog tapestry, made most probably during the late 13th century.
Except for the provinces of Scania, Blekinge and Halland in the south-west of the Scandinavian peninsula, which were parts of the Kingdom of Denmark during this time, feudalism never developed in Sweden as it did in the rest of Europe. The peasantry, therefore, remained largely a class of free farmers throughout most of Swedish history. Slavery (also called thralldom) was not common in Sweden, and what slavery there was tended to be driven out of existence thanks to the spread of Christianity as well as to the difficulty to obtain slaves from the lands east of the Baltic Sea, and by the development of cities before the 16th century. Indeed, both slavery and serfdom were abolished altogether by a decree of King Magnus IV in 1335. Former slaves tended to be absorbed into the peasantry, and some became labourers in the towns. Still, Sweden remained a poor and economically backward country in which barter was the primary means of exchange. For instance, the farmers of the province of Dalsland would transport their butter to the mining districts of Sweden and exchange it there for iron, which they would then take to the coast and trade for fish, which they consumed, while the iron would be shipped abroad.
In the middle of the 14th century, Sweden was struck by the Black Death. The population of Sweden and most of Europe was decimated. The population (at same territory) did not reach the numbers of the year 1348 again until the beginning of the 19th century. One third of the population died in the triennium of 1349–1351. During this period, the Swedish cities began to acquire greater rights and were strongly influenced by German merchants of the Hanseatic League, active especially at Visby. In 1319, Sweden and Norway were united under King Magnus Eriksson, and in 1397 Queen Margaret I of Denmark effected the personal union of Sweden, Norway, and Denmark through the Kalmar Union. However, Margaret’s successors, whose rule was also centred in Denmark, were unable to control the Swedish nobility.
Many times the Swedish crown was inherited by child kings over the course of the kingdom’s existence; consequently, real power was held for long periods by regents (notably those of the Sture family) chosen by the Swedish parliament. King Christian II of Denmark, who asserted his claim to Sweden by force of arms, ordered a massacre of Swedish nobles in Stockholm in 1520. This came to be known as the “Stockholm blood bath” and stirred the Swedish nobility to new resistance and, on 6 June (now Sweden’s national holiday) in 1523, they made Gustav Vasa their king. This is sometimes considered as the foundation of modern Sweden. Shortly afterwards the new king rejected Catholicism and led Sweden into the Protestant Reformation.
The Hanseatic League had been officially formed at Lübeck on the Baltic coast of Northern Germany in 1356. The League sought civil and commercial privileges from the princes and royalty of the countries and cities along the coasts of the Baltic Sea. In exchange, they offered a certain amount of protection to the joining cities. Having their own navy, the Hansa were able to sweep the Baltic Sea free of pirates. The privileges obtained by the Hansa included assurances that only Hansa citizens would be allowed to trade from the ports where they were located. They sought agreement to be free of all customs and taxes. With these concessions, Lübeck merchants flocked to Stockholm, where they soon came to dominate the city’s economic life and made the port city of Stockholm into the leading commercial and industrial city of Sweden. Under the Hanseatic trade, two-thirds of Stockholm’s imports consisted of textiles, while the remaining third was salt. The main exports from Sweden were iron and copper.
However, the Swedes began to resent the monopoly trading position of the Hansa (mostly consisting of German citizens), and to resent the income they felt they lost to the Hansa. Consequently, when Gustav Vasa or Gustav I broke the monopoly power of the Hanseatic League he was regarded as a hero by the Swedish people. History now views Gustav I as the father of the modern Swedish nation. The foundations laid by Gustav would take time to develop. Furthermore, when Sweden did develop, freed itself from the Hanseatic League, and entered its golden era, the fact that the peasantry had traditionally been free meant that more of the economic benefits flowed back to them rather than going to a feudal landowning class.
The end of the 16th century was marked by a final phase of rivalry between the remaining Catholics and the new Protestant communities. In 1592, Gustav Vasa’s Catholic grandson and king of Poland, Sigismund, ascended the Swedish throne. He pursued to strengthen Rome‘s influence by initiating Counter-Reformation and created a dual monarchy, which temporarily became known as the Polish-Swedish Union. His despotic rule, strongly characterised by intolerance towards the Protestants, sparked a civil war that plunged Sweden into poverty. In opposition, Sigismund’s uncle and successor, Charles Vasa, summoned the Uppsala Synod in 1593 which officially confirmed the modern Church of Sweden as Lutheran. Following his deposition in 1599, Sigismund attempted to reclaim the throne at every expense and hostilities between Poland and Sweden continued for the next one hundred years.
During the 17th century, Sweden emerged as a European great power. Before the emergence of the Swedish Empire, Sweden was a poor and sparsely populated country on the fringe of European civilisation, with no significant power or reputation. Sweden rose to prominence on a continental scale during the reign of king Gustavus Adolphus, seizing territories from Russia and Poland–Lithuania in multiple conflicts, including the Thirty Years’ War.
During the Thirty Years’ War, Sweden conquered approximately half of the Holy Roman states and defeated the Imperial army at the Battle of Breitenfeld in 1631. Gustav Adolphus planned to become the new Holy Roman Emperor, ruling over a united Scandinavia and the Holy Roman states, but he was killed at the Battle of Lützen in 1632. After the Battle of Nördlingen in 1634, Sweden’s only significant military defeat of the war, pro-Swedish sentiment among the German states faded. These German provinces broke away from Swedish power one by one, leaving Sweden with only a few northern German territories: Swedish Pomerania, Bremen-Verden and Wismar. From 1643 to 1645, during the last years of the war, Sweden and Denmark-Norway fought the Torstenson War. The result of that conflict and the conclusion of the Thirty Years’ War helped establish postwar Sweden as a major force in Europe.
The Swedish Empire between 1611 and 1815, with its absolute peak between 1658 and 1660.
In the middle of the 17th century Sweden was the third-largest country in Europe by land area, surpassed by only Russia and Spain. Sweden reached its largest territorial extent under the rule of Charles X after the treaty of Roskilde in 1658, following Charles X’s risky but successful crossing of the Danish Belts. The foundation of Sweden’s success during this period is credited to Gustav I’s major changes to the Swedish economy in the 16th century, and his introduction of Protestantism. In the 17th century, Sweden was engaged in many wars, for example with the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, with both sides competing for territories of today’s Baltic states, with Sweden suffering a notable defeat at the Battle of Kircholm. One-third of the Finnish population died in the devastating Great Famine of 1695–1697 that struck the country. Famine also hit Sweden, killing roughly 10% of Sweden’s population.
The Swedes conducted a series of invasions into the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, known as the Deluge. After more than half a century of almost constant warfare, the Swedish economy had deteriorated. It became the lifetime task of Charles X’s son, Charles XI, to rebuild the economy and refit the army. His legacy to his son, the coming ruler of Sweden, Charles XII, was one of the finest arsenals in the world, a large standing army and a great fleet. Russia, the most serious threat to Sweden at this time, had a larger army but lagged far behind in both equipment and training.
After the Battle of Narva in 1700, one of the first battles of the Great Northern War, the Russian army was so severely devastated that Sweden had an open chance to invade Russia. However, Charles XII did not pursue the Russian army, instead turning against Poland–Lithuania and defeating the Polish king, Augustus II the Strong, and his Saxon allies at the Battle of Kliszów in 1702. This gave Russia time to rebuild and modernise its army.
After the success of invading Poland, Charles XII decided to make an attempt at invading Russia, but this ended in a decisive Russian victory at the Battle of Poltava in 1709. After a long march exposed to Cossack raids, the Russian Tsar Peter the Great‘s scorched-earth techniques and the extremely cold winter of 1709, the Swedes stood weakened with a shattered morale and were enormously outnumbered against the Russian army at Poltava. The defeat meant the beginning of the end for the Swedish Empire. In addition, the plague raging in East Central Europe devastated the Swedish dominions and reached Central Sweden in 1710. Returning to Sweden in 1715, Charles XII launched two campaigns against Norway on 1716 and 1718, respectively. During the second attempt, he was shot to death during the siege of Fredriksten fortress. The Swedes were not militarily defeated at Fredriksten, but the whole structure and organisation of the campaign fell apart with the king’s death, and the army withdrew.
Forced to cede large areas of land in the Treaty of Nystad in 1721, Sweden also lost its place as an empire and as the dominant state on the Baltic Sea. With Sweden’s lost influence, Russia emerged as an empire and became one of Europe’s dominant nations. As the war finally ended in 1721, Sweden had lost an estimated 200,000 men, 150,000 of those from the area of present-day Sweden and 50,000 from the Finnish part of Sweden.
In the 18th century, Sweden did not have enough resources to maintain its territories outside Scandinavia, and most of them were lost, culminating with the loss in 1809 of eastern Sweden to Russia, which became the highly autonomous Grand Principality of Finland in Imperial Russia.
In interest of re-establishing Swedish dominance in the Baltic Sea, Sweden allied itself against its traditional ally and benefactor, France, in the Napoleonic Wars. However, in 1810, a French Marshal, Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, was chosen as heir presumptive to the decrepit Charles XIII; in 1818, he established the House of Bernadotte, taking the regnal name of Charles XIV. Sweden’s role in the Battle of Leipzig gave it the authority to force Denmark–Norway, an ally of France, to cede Norway to the King of Sweden on 14 January 1814 in exchange for the northern German provinces, at the Treaty of Kiel. The Norwegian attempts to keep their status as a sovereign state were rejected by the Swedish king, Charles XIII. He launched a military campaign against Norway on 27 July 1814, ending in the Convention of Moss, which forced Norway into a personal union with Sweden under the Swedish crown, which lasted until 1905. The 1814 campaign was the last time Sweden was at war.
Illustration of starvation in northern Sweden, Famine of 1867–1869
The Swedish East India Company, Ostindiska Kompaniet, began in 1731. The obvious choice of home port was Gothenburg at Sweden’s west coast, the mouth of Göta älv river is very wide and has the county’s largest and best harbour for high-seas journeys. The trade continued into the 19th century, and caused the little town to become Sweden’s second city. There was a significant population increase during the 18th and 19th centuries, which the writer Esaias Tegnér in 1833 attributed to “the peace, the smallpox vaccine, and the potatoes”. Between 1750 and 1850, the population in Sweden doubled. According to some scholars, mass emigration to America became the only way to prevent famine and rebellion; over 1% of the population emigrated annually during the 1880s. Nevertheless, Sweden remained poor, retaining a nearly entirely agricultural economy even as Denmark and Western European countries began to industrialise.
Swedish emigrants boarding ship in Gothenburg in 1905
Many looked towards America for a better life during this time. It is thought that between 1850 and 1910 more than one million Swedes moved to the United States. In the early 20th century, more Swedes lived in Chicago than in Gothenburg (Sweden’s second largest city). Most Swedish immigrants moved to the Midwestern United States, with a large population in Minnesota, with a few others moving to other parts of the United States and Canada.
Despite the slow rate of industrialisation into the 19th century, many important changes were taking place in the agrarian economy due to constant innovations and a rapid population growth. These innovations included government-sponsored programmes of enclosure, aggressive exploitation of agricultural lands, and the introduction of new crops such as the potato. Because the Swedish peasantry had never been enserfed as elsewhere in Europe, the Swedish farming culture began to take on a critical role in Swedish politics, which has continued through modern times with modern Agrarian party (now called the Centre Party). Between 1870 and 1914, Sweden began developing the industrialised economy that exists today.
Strong grassroots movements sprang up in Sweden during the latter half of the 19th century (trade unions, temperance groups, and independent religious groups), creating a strong foundation of democratic principles. In 1889 The Swedish Social Democratic Party was founded. These movements precipitated Sweden’s migration into a modern parliamentary democracy, achieved by the time of World War I. As the Industrial Revolution progressed during the 20th century, people gradually moved into cities to work in factories and became involved in socialist unions. A communist revolution was avoided in 1917, following the re-introduction of parliamentarism, and the country was democratised.
World War I and World War II
Sweden was officially neutral during World War I, although, under German pressure, they did take steps which were detrimental to the Allied powers including mining the Øresund channel, thus closing it to Allied shipping, and allowing the Germans to use Swedish facilities and the Swedish cipher to transmit secret messages to their overseas embassies. Sweden also allowed volunteers to fight for the White Guards alongside the Germans against the Red Guards and Russians in the Finnish Civil War, and briefly occupied Åland in co-operation with Germany.
A Swedish soldier during World War II. Sweden remained neutral during the conflict.
As in the First World War, Sweden remained officially neutral during World War II, although its neutrality during World War II has been disputed. Sweden was under German influence for much of the war, as ties to the rest of the world were cut off through blockades. The Swedish government felt that it was in no position to openly contest Germany, and therefore made some concessions. Sweden also supplied steel and machined parts to Germany throughout the war. The Swedish government unofficially supported Finland in the Winter War and the Continuation War by allowing volunteers and materiel to be shipped to Finland. However, Sweden supported Norwegian resistance against Germany, and in 1943 helped rescue Danish Jews from deportation to Nazi concentration camps.
During the last year of the war, Sweden began to play a role in humanitarian efforts, and many refugees, among them several thousand Jews from Nazi-occupied Europe, were rescued thanks to the Swedish rescue missions to internment camps and partly because Sweden served as a haven for refugees, primarily from the Nordic countries and the Baltic states. The Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg and his colleagues ensured the safety of tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews. Nevertheless, both Swedes and others have argued that Sweden could have done more to oppose the Nazis’ war efforts, even if it meant increasing the risk of occupation.
Sweden was officially a neutral country and remained outside NATO and Warsaw Pact membership during the Cold War, but privately Sweden’s leadership had strong ties with the United States and other western governments. Following the war, Sweden took advantage of an intact industrial base, social stability and its natural resources to expand its industry to supply the rebuilding of Europe. Sweden received aid under the Marshall Plan and participated in the OECD. During most of the post-war era, the country was governed by the Swedish Social Democratic Party largely in co-operation with trade unions and industry. The government actively pursued an internationally competitive manufacturing sector of primarily large corporations.
Sweden was one of the founding states of the European Free Trade Area (EFTA). During the 1960s the EFTA countries were often referred to as the Outer Seven, as opposed to the Inner Six of the then-European Economic Community (EEC).
Sweden, like many industrialised countries, entered a period of economic decline and upheaval following the oil embargoes of 1973–74 and 1978–79. In the 1980s several key Swedish industries were significantly restructured. Shipbuilding was discontinued, wood pulp was integrated into modernised paper production, the steel industry was concentrated and specialised, and mechanical engineering was robotised.
Between 1970 and 1990, the overall tax burden rose by over 10%, and the growth was low compared with other countries in Western Europe. Eventually, the government began to spend over half of the country’s gross domestic product. Swedish GDP per capita ranking declined during this time.
See also: History of Sweden (1991–present)
Sweden joined the European Union in 1995 and signed the Lisbon Treaty in 2007.
A bursting real estate bubble caused by inadequate controls on lending combined with an international recession and a policy switch from anti-unemployment policies to anti-inflationary policies resulted in a fiscal crisis in the early 1990s. Sweden’s GDP declined by around 5%. In 1992, a run on the currency caused the central bank to briefly increase interest rates to 500%.
The response of the government was to cut spending and institute a multitude of reforms to improve Sweden’s competitiveness, among them reducing the welfare state and privatising public services and goods. Much of the political establishment promoted EU membership, and a referendum passed with 52.3% in favour of joining the EU on 13 November 1994. Sweden joined the European Union on 1 January 1995. In a 2003 referendum the Swedish electorate voted against the country joining the Euro currency. In 2006 Sweden got its first majority government for decades as the centre-right Alliance defeated the incumbent Social Democrat government. Following the rapid growth of support for the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats, and their entrance to the Riksdag in 2010, the Alliance became a minority cabinet.
Sweden remains non-aligned militarily, although it participates in some joint military exercises with NATO and some other countries, in addition to extensive co-operation with other European countries in the area of defence technology and defence industry. Among others, Swedish companies export weapons that were used by the American military in Iraq. Sweden also has a long history of participating in international military operations, including Afghanistan, where Swedish troops are under NATO command, and in EU-sponsored peacekeeping operations in Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Cyprus. Sweden also participated in enforcing a UN mandated no-fly zone over Libya during the Arab Spring. Sweden held the chair of the European Union from 1 July to 31 December 2009.
Second day of the Stockholm Husby riots. The picture shows three cars on fire in the Stockholm suburb of Husby, 20 May 2013
In recent decades Sweden has become a more culturally diverse nation due to significant immigration; in 2013 it was estimated that 15 per cent of the population was foreign-born, and an additional 5 per cent of the population were born to two immigrant parents. The influx of immigrants has brought new social challenges. Violent incidents have periodically occurred including the 2013 Stockholm riots which broke out following the police shooting of an elderly Portuguese immigrant. In response to these violent events, the anti-immigration opposition party, the Sweden Democrats, promoted their anti-immigration policies, while the left-wing opposition blamed growing inequality caused by the centre-right government’s socioeconomic policies.
In 2014, Stefan Löfven (Social Democrats) won the General Election and became the new Swedish Prime Minister to succeed Fredrik Reinfeldt of the liberal conservative Moderate Party. The Sweden Democrats held the balance of power and voted the government’s budget down in the Riksdag, but due to agreements between the government and the Alliance, the government was able to hang onto power. Sweden was heavily affected by the 2015 European migrant crisis, eventually forcing the government to tighten regulations of entry to the country, as Sweden received thousands of asylum seekers and migrants predominantly from Africa and the Middle East per week in autumn, overwhelming existing structures. Some of the asylum restrictions were relaxed again later.
The 2018 general election saw the Red-greens lose seats to the right-wing Sweden Democrats and to the centre-right parties of the former Alliance. Despite holding only 33% of the seats in the Riksdag, the Social Democrats and the Greens managed to form a minority government, led by Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, in January 2019, relying on supply and confidence from the Centre Party, Liberals and the Left Party.
In August 2021, Prime Minister Stefan Lofven announced his resignation and finance minister Magdalena Andersson was elected as the new head of Sweden’s ruling Social Democrats in November 2021. On 30 November 2021, Magdalena Andersson became Sweden’s first female prime minister. She formed a minority government made up of only her Social Democrats. Her plan for forming a new coalition government with the Green Party was unsuccessful because her budget proposal failed to pass.
Main article: Geography of Sweden
View of the Stora Sjöfallet National Park
Situated in Northern Europe, Sweden lies west of the Baltic Sea and Gulf of Bothnia, providing a long coastline, and forms the eastern part of the Scandinavian Peninsula. To the west is the Scandinavian mountain chain (Skanderna), a range that separates Sweden from Norway. Finland is located to its north-east. It has maritime borders with Denmark, Germany, Poland, Russia, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, and it is also linked to Denmark (south-west) by the Öresund Bridge. Its border with Norway (1,619 km long) is the longest uninterrupted border within Europe.
Scania in southern Sweden
At 449,964 km2 (173,732 sq mi), Sweden is the 55th-largest country in the world, the fifth-largest country in Europe, and the largest country in Northern Europe. The lowest elevation in Sweden is in the bay of Lake Hammarsjön, near Kristianstad, at −2.41 m (−7.91 ft) below sea level. The highest point is Kebnekaise at 2,111 m (6,926 ft) above sea level.
Sweden has 25 provinces or landskap, based on culture, geography and history. While these provinces serve no political or administrative purpose, they play an important role in people’s self-identity. The provinces are usually grouped together in three large lands, parts, the northern Norrland, the central Svealand and southern Götaland. The sparsely populated Norrland encompasses almost 60% of the country. Sweden also has the Vindelfjällen Nature Reserve, one of the largest protected areas in Europe, totaling 562,772 ha (approx. 5,628 km2).
About 15% of Sweden lies north of the Arctic Circle. Southern Sweden is predominantly agricultural, with increasing forest coverage northward. Around 65% of Sweden’s total land area is covered with forests. The highest population density is in the Öresund Region in southern Sweden, along the western coast up to central Bohuslän, and in the valley of lake Mälaren and Stockholm. Gotland and Öland are Sweden’s largest islands; Vänern and Vättern are its largest lakes. Vänern is the third largest in Europe, after Lake Ladoga and Lake Onega in Russia. Combined with the third- and fourth-largest lakes Mälaren and Hjälmaren, these lakes take up a significant part of southern Sweden’s area. Sweden’s extensive waterway availability throughout the south was exploited with the building of the Göta Canal in the 19th century, shortening the potential distance between the Baltic Sea south of Norrköping and Gothenburg by using the lake and river network to facilitate the canal.
Sweden also has plenty of long rivers draining the lakes. Northern and Central Sweden have several wide rivers known as älvar, commonly sourced within the Scandinavian Mountains. The longest river is Klarälven–Göta älv, which originates in Trøndelag in central Norway, running 1,160 kilometres (720 mi) before it enters the sea at Gothenburg. Dalälven and the Torne are the second and third longest rivers in the country. Torne marks a large part of the Finland border. In southern Sweden, narrower rivers known as åar are also common. The vast majority of municipal seats are set either on the sea, a river or a lake and the majority of the country’s population live in coastal municipalities.
Government and politics
Main article: Politics of Sweden
Sweden has four fundamental laws (Swedish: grundlagar) which together form the Constitution: the Instrument of Government (Swedish: Regeringsformen), the Act of Succession (Swedish: Successionsordningen), the Freedom of the Press Act (Swedish: Tryckfrihetsförordningen), and the Fundamental Law on Freedom of Expression (Swedish: Yttrandefrihetsgrundlagen).
The public sector in Sweden is divided into two parts: the legal person known as the State (Swedish: staten)[b] and local authorities:[c] the latter include regional County Councils (Swedish: landsting) and local Municipalities (Swedish: kommuner). The local authorities, rather than the State, make up the larger part of the public sector in Sweden. County Councils and Municipalities are independent of one another, the former merely covers a larger geographical area than the latter. The local authorities have self-rule, as mandated by the Constitution, and their own tax base. Notwithstanding their self-rule, local authorities are nevertheless in practice interdependent upon the State, as the parameters of their responsibilities and the extent of their jurisdiction are specified in the Local Government Act (Swedish: Kommunallagen) passed by the Riksdag.
Sweden is a constitutional monarchy, and King Carl XVI Gustaf is the head of state, but the role of the monarch is limited to ceremonial and representative functions. Under the provisions of the 1974 Instrument of Government, the King lacks any formal political power. The King opens the annual Riksdag session, chairs the Special Council held during a change of Government, holds regular Information Councils with the Prime Minister and the Government, chairs the meetings of the Advisory Council on Foreign Affairs (Swedish: Utrikesnämnden), and receives Letters of Credence of foreign ambassadors to Sweden and signs those of Swedish ambassadors sent abroad. In addition, the King pays State Visits abroad and receives those incoming as host. Apart from strictly official duties, the King and the other members of Royal Family undertake a variety of unofficial and other representative duties within Sweden and abroad.
Legislative power is vested in the unicameral Riksdag with 349 members. General elections are held every four years, on the second Sunday of September. Legislation may be initiated by the Government or by members of the Riksdag. Members are elected on the basis of proportional representation to a four-year term. The internal workings of the Riksdag are, in addition to the Instrument of Government, regulated by the Riksdag Act (Swedish: Riksdagsordningen). The fundamental laws can be altered by the Riksdag alone; only an absolute majority with two separate votes, separated by a general election in between, is required.
The Government (Swedish: Regeringen) operates as a collegial body with collective responsibility and consists of the Prime Minister — appointed and dismissed by the Speaker of the Riksdag (following an actual vote in the Riksdag before an appointment can be made) — and other cabinet ministers (Swedish: Statsråd), appointed and dismissed at the sole discretion of the Prime Minister. The Government is the supreme executive authority and is responsible for its actions to the Riksdag.
Most of the State administrative authorities (Swedish: statliga förvaltningsmyndigheter) report to the Government, including (but not limited to) the Armed Forces, the Enforcement Authority, the National Library, the Swedish police and the Tax Agency. A unique feature of Swedish State administration is that individual cabinet ministers do not bear any individual ministerial responsibility for the performance of the agencies within their portfolio; as the director-generals and other heads of government agencies reports directly to the Government as a whole; and individual ministers are prohibited to interfere; thus the origin of the pejorative in Swedish political parlance term ministerstyre (English: “ministerial rule”) in matters that are to be handled by the individual agencies, unless otherwise specifically provided for in law.
The Judiciary is independent from the Riksdag, Government and other State administrative authorities. The role of judicial review of legislation is not practised by the courts; instead, the Council on Legislation gives non-binding opinions on legality. There is no stare decisis in that courts are not bound by precedent, although it is influential.
Political parties and elections
The Riksdag chamber, at the time of a vote, in 2009
The Swedish Social Democratic Party has played a leading role in Swedish politics since 1917, after the Reformists had confirmed their strength and the left-wing revolutionaries formed their own party. After 1932, most governments have been dominated by the Social Democrats. Only five general elections since World War II—1976, 1979, 1991, 2006 and 2010—have given the assembled bloc of centre-right parties enough seats in the Riksdag to form a government.
For over 50 years, Sweden had had five parties who continually received enough votes to gain seats in the Riksdag—the Social Democrats, the Moderate Party, the Centre Party, the Liberal People’s Party and the Left Party—before the Green Party became the sixth party in the 1988 election. In the 1991 election, while the Greens lost their seats, two new parties gained seats for the first time: the Christian Democrats and New Democracy. The 1994 election saw the return of the Greens and the demise of New Democracy. It was not until elections in 2010 that an eighth party, the Sweden Democrats, gained Riksdag seats. In the elections to the European Parliament, parties who have failed to pass the Riksdag threshold have managed to gain representation at that venue: the June List (2004–2009), the Pirate Party (2009–2014), and Feminist Initiative (2014–2019).
The party leaders lined up before the start of the televised live debate on 12 September 2014.
In the 2006 general election the Moderate Party formed the centre-right Alliance for Sweden bloc and won a majority of the Riksdag seats. In the 2010 general election the Alliance contended against a unified left block consisting of the Social Democrats, the Greens and the Left Party. The Alliance won a plurality of 173 seats, but remained two seats short of a 175-seat majority. Nevertheless, neither the Alliance, nor the left block, chose to form a coalition with the Sweden Democrats.
The outcome of the 2014 general election resulted in the attainment of more seats by the three centre-left parties in comparison to the centre-right Alliance for Sweden, with the two blocs receiving 159 and 141 seats respectively. The non-aligned Sweden Democrats more than doubled their support and won the remaining 49 seats. On 3 October 2014, Stefan Löfven formed a minority government consisting of the Social Democrats and the Greens.
Election turnout in Sweden has always been high by international comparison. Although it declined in recent decades, the latest elections saw an increase in voter turnout (80.11% in 2002, 81.99% in 2006, 84.63% in 2010, 85.81 in 2014) and 87.18% in 2018. Swedish politicians enjoyed a high degree of confidence from the citizens in the 1960s, However, that level of confidence has since declined steadily, and is now at a markedly lower level than in its Scandinavian neighbours.