Sweden History

Sweden History

Tribal kings and varagans

Archaeological finds point to the settlement of today’s Sweden as early as 7000 BC. there. Around 1800 BC old Germanic tribes immigrated from Eastern Europe. In the 6th century AD tribal kingdoms had formed, whereby the Svaer, after whom the country was later named, were able to assert themselves against the Gauter (gods) living further south and subjugate them. At the end of the first millennium AD the Ynglingar dynasty of the Svaer united the area of ​​today’s central and southern Sweden as well as the Baltic islands of Öland and Gotland into one empire. Swedish Vikings penetrated into what is now Russia, where they founded Novgorod and Kiev , for example. From these cities, trade with Byzantium and Asia Minor was carried out via the Eastern European rivers. The local Slavs gave the Swedish Vikings the name “Waräger”.

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From the 11th to the 14th century

As a result of Christianization by missionaries from Germany, King Olaf III. in 1008 AD the first Swedish ruler to be baptized. Under Erik IX. the conquest of Finland began, which was annexed to the “Svea-Rike” (Sweden Empire) in 1266. From the middle of the 13th century, the Folkung dynasty ruled in Sweden, King Magnus II. Eriksson united the Norwegian and Swedish crowns in the 14th century. In the same century, after the wars with Denmark, Sweden had to give up the Baltic islands of Öland and Gotland and the southern tip of the country (Skåne).

The Kalmar Union

In 1389, Margaret of Denmark, regent of Norway and Denmark, was elected Queen of Sweden by the Swedish nobility. It united the three countries in 1397 to form the Kalmar Union. In the 15th century, parts of the Swedish population rose against Danish domination and the Swedish Reichstag and the respective administrators gained more political power. The Danish king Christian II tried to strengthen the Danish influence in Sweden again and ordered mass executions among the members of the Swedish independence movement (“Stockholm bloodbath”, 1520).

Sweden as a great power

Under the leadership of the administrator of the empire Gustav Wasa, Sweden succeeded in separating from the Union with Denmark in 1523. Gustav Wasa was crowned King of Sweden as Gustav I and declared Lutheran Protestantism to be the state religion. In 1544 the hereditary monarchy was introduced in Sweden.

Under the rule of the Wasa House, Sweden became a major European power. At the beginning of the 17th century, large parts of Denmark, Estonia, Livonia and parts of Russia were occupied by Swedish troops. King Gustav II Adolf intervened in the Thirty Years’ War (1618-48) in 1630 and advanced with his troops in Germany to the Main. The Peace of Westphalia of 1648 awarded Sweden the possession of Western Pomerania, Wismar, Bremen and Verden. In the middle of the 17th century, the Wasa dynasty was replaced by the Palatinate-Zweibr¨¹cken house. In this century, the Swedish kingdom reached its greatest expansion (and even had a settlement in North America for almost 20 years).

Territory losses after the “Great Northern War” and the Napoleonic Wars

In the 18th century, Sweden suffered large losses of territory: After Russia, Poland, Denmark and Poland united against the Swedish kingdom, the country lost its supremacy after the “Great Northern War” (1700-21). The conquered German, Danish, Russian and Polish areas had to be returned. A little later, Sweden also lost southeastern Finland (Karelia) to Russia.

In Sweden itself, the estates represented in the Reichstag (nobility, clergy, citizens, peasants) increasingly gained power and limited the power of the king. King Gustav III went against it. before, he ended the sovereignty and reintroduced absolutism. The Swedish Academy of Sciences was founded under his aegis in Uppsala (1786), and the economic reforms he has carried out are now considered one of the foundations for the development of modern Sweden.

In 1809, Sweden lost Finland to Russia, which had allied itself with France, as part of the Napoleonic Wars. King Charles XIII made the French Marshal Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte his successor, who as crown prince took over the reign over Sweden in 1811 (crowned as Charles XIV Johann in 1818). He allied with Russia and Britain against France. The decisions of the Congress of Vienna (1814/15) led to a reorganization in Europe after the end of the Napoleonic wars. Finland was awarded to Russia, while Sweden received Norway from Denmark (which had allied itself with France).

Reforms and industrial age

According to AbbreviationFinder, a number of reforms took place in Sweden during the 19th century, such as the introduction of freedom of trade (1841) and free trade (1860), instead of the Estates Day, a new constitution in 1865 introduced the bicameral parliament and the right to choose a census. In terms of foreign policy, the country adopted a neutral stance that became a state doctrine from the end of the Crimean War in 1856.

The industrial age began in Sweden from the middle of the 19th century, leading to the formation of the working class (proletariat). The Social Democratic Party of Sweden (SAP) was founded in 1889. In 1905, neighboring Norway became independent as a parliamentary democracy with the consent of Sweden. In 1909 universal suffrage was introduced in Sweden (initially only for the second chamber and for men). New constitutions of 1919 and 1921 established the form of government of the parliamentary hereditary monarchy for Sweden, whereby the king increasingly had only a representative function. In 1919 universal suffrage was introduced for both chambers of parliament and also for women. The social democratic party SAP won the 1920 elections.

Modernization measures and social reforms in the 1920s and 1930s laid the foundations for the Swedish welfare state through the social democratic governments (“Swedish model”). For example, families were supported not only with child benefit, but also with vacation pay, free kindergarten places and extensive housing help. From the end of the Second World War, the social democrat Tage Erlander continued to expand the welfare state as the head of the Swedish government.

Sweden after 1945

Sweden had managed to maintain its foreign policy neutrality in both the First and Second World Wars. After 1945 the country joined the UN, in 1949 it became a member of the Council of Europe, but did not join the North Atlantic Defense Alliance (NATO). In 1951, Sweden founded the “Nordic Council” together with Denmark and Norway (Iceland joined in 1952, Finland in 1955). The aim of the organization was to improve cooperation between the Scandinavian countries. In 1960 Sweden was one of the founding members of the EFTA (European Free Trade Association), which was founded as a counterweight to the “European Economic Community” (EEC).

In 1969 the Swedish bicameral parliament was converted into a unicameral system. Erlander’s successor as Prime Minister of the country was the social democrat Olof Palme. He also clung to the so-called Swedish model, although in the course of the 1970s, cost-intensive government support had an increasingly negative impact on the economy. Palme’s social democratic government was replaced in 1976 by a coalition of conservative and liberal parties, Thorbjörn Fälldin became the new prime minister (from 1982 again Olof Palme, who was assassinated in 1986).

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At the beginning of the 1990s, Sweden was in a severe economic crisis. In 1991 the Social Democrats lost the elections and Carl Bildt of the Moderate Samlingspartiet (MS) became the new Prime Minister. In order to reduce the high level of public debt, a drastic austerity package was decided, which included a reduction in social spending and tax increases.

In 1993 the roughly 16,000 Sami (rags) living in Sweden, who had already requested their own territory in the early 1980s, were allowed to form their own parliament in Kiruna. This gave the minority cultural autonomy, but it did not extend to the language (Swedish is the only official language in the country).

In 1994 the Social Democratic Party was again able to win the parliamentary elections. A year later, Sweden became a full member of the European Union (EU). The Social Democrats suffered heavy losses in the September 1998 elections, but remained the strongest political force in Parliament. Göran Persson continued to serve as Prime Minister. The government was formed by a coalition of Social Democrats, Left Party and Greens.

Sweden still did not belong to any military alliance and maintained neutrality as a foreign policy doctrine. Following the collapse of the Eastern Bloc and the end of the Soviet threat, Sweden’s armed forces have been reduced by around 50% since the early 1990s. International peacekeeping operations were defined as a new task for the troops.

In January 2001, Sweden took over the presidency of the European Union (for six months). 44-year-old Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh became EU Council President. An estimated half of the Swedish population is in favor of the EU. So far, however, membership in the European monetary union has been rejected by a large majority.

In June 2001, there were serious riots at the EU summit of heads of state and government from the 15 member countries and the candidate countries in Gothenburg. Some of the roughly 100,000 opponents of globalization and the Swedish police fought street battles, and around 600 people were arrested.

The Swedish government announced in February 2002 that it would abandon political and military neutrality. In the parliamentary elections in September 2002, the ruling Social Democratic Party received 53% of the vote. The Social Democratic Party lost a lot of votes in the 2006 elections, but was again the strongest party at just under 35%. The bourgeois parties formed an “Alliance for Sweden” and since then have been acting Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt (Moderate Collection Party). In 2010, the conservative Reinfeldt won the election again, but the right-wing populists entered the parliament for the first time after this election.

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