History of Sweden

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The history of Sweden can be traced back to 11,000 BC. When the area of ​​today's Sweden was first settled by humans after the last ice age . During the Migration Period and the subsequent Vendel Period (550-800), people settled in the area. In the course of the Viking Age from 800 to 1050, many raids and trade expeditions to the east started from the inhabitants of Sweden. The Varangians (Swedish Vikings) drove far into what is now Russia , where they established trading posts and short-lived empires, and on to the Black and Caspian Seas , where they established trade connections with places in the Byzantine Empire and the Arab world .

From the 11th century Sweden was Christianized , with paganism with the old Nordic doctrine of gods lasting well into the 12th century. In 1164 Sweden got its own archbishop. The expansion to the east during the 12th and 13th centuries meant that Finland fell to the Swedish Empire after several crusades .

The independent Swedish regions went into a new empire around the year 1000, the focus of which was in Västergötland and Östergötland . From the middle of the 12th century the struggle for secular power raged in this empire between the families of the Sverkers and the Eriks , who alternately held royal power between 1130 and 1250. It was not until the second half of the 13th century that the king gained increased influence and was able to assert the interests of the central power and enact laws for the entire empire with the construction of royal castles and the introduction of a provincial administration.

Under the leadership of Queen Margaret I , a union was concluded with the Kalmar Union in 1397 , in which the Scandinavian countries recognized the same king. This amalgamation of three kingdoms under Danish Union kings lasted until 1523. An uprising led by the future King Gustav Wasa led to the end of the Kalmar Union in 1523.

In terms of foreign policy, Sweden had worked towards gaining dominance in the Baltic Sea region since the union with Denmark and Norway broke up . This resulted in repeated wars with Denmark, Poland-Lithuania and Tsarist Russia from the 1560s . After Sweden had intervened with great success on the Protestant side in the Thirty Years' War in 1630 and Gustav II Adolf had become one of the leading monarchs in Europe, Denmark was defeated in two wars 1643–1645 and 1657–1658, whereby Skåne, Halland, Blekinge and the island of Gotland, which had previously belonged to Denmark, fell to Sweden. It also received Bohuslän, Jämtland and Härjedalen from Norway.

Since Sweden also comprised Finland as well as a number of provinces in the Baltic States and Northern Germany, it had become the leading great power in northern Europe after the Peace of Westphalia (1648) and the Peace of Roskilde (1658 with Denmark). Sweden, however, lacked the economic strength to maintain its position as a great power in the long term, since with the exception of a few ironworks and the copper mine in Falun it was a purely agricultural country with a pronounced natural economy. After the defeats in the Great Northern War (1700–1721) against Russia, Denmark, Saxony-Poland and Prussia, Sweden lost most of its provinces on the other side of the Baltic Sea and was largely reduced to what is now Sweden and Finland. The period of great power was followed by the so-called period of freedom after 1721 , which was accompanied by several costly wars against Russia in terms of foreign policy, as a result of which Sweden continued to lose influence in foreign policy.

During the Napoleonic Wars , Finland (to Russia) and the last possessions in Northern Germany ( Western Pomerania with Rügen ) were finally lost. As a replacement for these losses, the heir to the throne elected in 1810 and later King Karl XIV. Johann succeeded in acquiring Norway, which was forced into a union with Sweden in 1814 . Despite many internal conflicts, this union lasted until 1905 when it was dissolved again.

Since a brief military conflict with Norway in connection with the formation of the Union in 1814, Sweden has not participated in any war and, since the First World War, has pursued the foreign policy line of remaining free of alliance in peacetime and neutral in war, whereby its security depends on a strong overall defense founded outside the covenants. At the same time, Sweden joined the League of Nations in 1920 and the United Nations (UN) in 1946 and, under the umbrella of these organizations, has participated in various international peacekeeping campaigns.


Dense archaeological sites in Sweden
Spread of Neolithic agriculture
Runestone in Uppsala

Towards the end of the last Ice Age (around 12,000 BC), the first people began to migrate to the coastal areas of southern Sweden across a land bridge between what is now Denmark and Skåne . The oldest finds are around 13,000 years old and were discovered in Skåne. The nomadic hunters, fishermen and gatherers moved north from Central Europe and as the land bridge around 5000 BC. B.C. disappeared, central Sweden and the coasts of northern Sweden were populated. The first finds in the inland of the far north (localities: Arjeplog, Stora Sjöfallet, Vuollerim) date from around the same time and come from groups of people who probably immigrated two to five thousand years earlier from ice-free north-eastern Europe and part of the so-called Komsa -Culture formed. Some archaeologists see this as the ancestors of today's Sami . They continued to develop there in isolation for many millennia before they inherited certain genetic dispositions and their Finno-Ugric languages from a new wave of immigration from the Ural region ( Suomusjärvi culture ) .

Around 4000 BC Agriculture found its way into Sweden and permanent settlements emerged. Due to the shape of the grave sites and grave goods, one can distinguish between different cultures in the following millennia. Well-known examples are the megalithic complexes of Hagestad or the grave of Kivik with its rock carvings. ( see also: Late Neolithic burials in Sweden ) Findings also brought ceramic finds from the older Iron Age in Sweden .

The Swedish illustrators Anders Lindgren, C. G. G. Hilfeling (1740–1823) and Nils Mansson Mandelgren (1813–1899) did important work in the documentation of archaeological objects, some of which have since been removed.


Scandinavia was first mentioned in writing in Pliny the Elder's naturalis historia from 79 and the Germania of Gaius Cornelius Tacitus , who was the first to mention the people of the Suions .

"Suionum hinc civitates ipso in Oceano praeter viros armaque classibus valent."

"The tribes of the suions on it, right on the ocean, are powerful except through men and weapons through their fleets."

- Tacitus, Germania , chap. 44
The name Svitjod on the rune stone from Aspa Löt

He mentions that there was already a king at the suions:

"Est apud illos et opibus honos, eoque unus imperitat, nullis iam exceptionibus, non precario iure parendi."

"With them wealth is also in respect, and that is why someone has the rule, now without exception, in an irrevocable duty of obedience."

- Tacitus, Germania , chap. 44

The small tribes grouped under this king were identified early on as the Upplanders later named in Upplandslag , named by Snorri Sviþjóð and would represent a core group of the Swedish people.

The names of the three sub-tribes ("Folklande") have not been passed down. In the late Middle Ages they were named after the number of hundreds ("hundare") they belonged to: Tiundaland, Attundaland and Fjärundaland, plus the coastal area Roden. These folk countries each had a regional thing .

The center of the three folk lands was at Alt-Uppsala , where the central sanctuary was located, in which, according to Adam of Bremen, three gods, Odin , Freyr and Thor were worshiped. In early prehistoric times - according to mythological accounts - it is believed that only the Vanen , responsible for fertility, were worshiped here. Later the sir would have taken their place. This is based on the historical tradition that it is reported in the Ynglingatal that King Domaldi was sacrificed to the goddess Ceres because of persistent bad harvests. The market and thing in Alt-Uppsala were also called disthing ( dísa-þing , Thing of the Disen ).

The further development is in the dark. The evaluation of the texts and archaeological finds has not been able to provide any information about when and how the Götalande, Småland, Värmland etc. were incorporated into this realm. Castles in central Sweden, in the two Götalands, on Öland and Gotland from the period between 400 and 800 indicate warlike entanglements. The differences of opinion in research are related to the fact that the Beowulflied and the Ynglingatal are given different values ​​in relation to a historical core. Only with Olof Skötkonung is it agreed that he ruled over the entire area.

Judging by the archaeological findings, there was lively trade with the Roman Empire between the birth of Christ and the beginning of the fifth century . Roman imported products came up to the far north, from the Nordic region were among other fur and Öland horses. Scandinavia was also mentioned for the first time in Roman scriptures. The first known reference to the ancestors of the Sami comes from Tacitus, whom he called "Fenni" and which later appear several times in the scriptures as "Skrithfinoi". The syllable “Skrith-” referred to the skis invented by the Sami.

On Ptolemy's map of the world around 150, Scandinavia is mapped for the first time (see Scandza ). In contrast to the previous collective form of society, there was now a stronger social stratification, as especially the magnificently furnished chamber graves show. Runic script was also introduced towards the end of this period .

Vendelzeit (550-800)

Between 400 and 800, the concentration of power in a few centers continued. Barrows indicate that there were local chiefs or tribal princes. Numerous refuges are perhaps testament to the uncertain times. Trading places like Helgo and later Birka indicate extensive international contacts.

Viking Age (800-1050)

Contemporary depiction of Danish Vikings

Around the year 800 the long Viking voyages , combined war and trade trains, began. The Viking trains from Denmark and Norway as well as Skåne and Bohuslän went west. Viking trains of the central Swedish population ( Väster- and Östergötland as well as Svealand ) and Gotland had been heading east long before. They reached Constantinople ( Miklagård ) and the silk country on the Caspian Sea ( Särkland ) via the great Russian rivers . These Viking trains were mostly robbery trade trains, but historical and archaeological sources point to a strong political activity of the Rus (also called Varangians ) in the creation of the Grand Duchy of Novgorod and Kiev , whose princes were of Scandinavian origin. The Swedish migrations were followed by extensive colonization in many areas. Grand Duke Jaroslav († 1054) was the last Varangian prince to get military support from Sweden. Jaroslav was married to Ingigerd, the daughter of Olof Skötkonung. The rune stones testify to raids on both sides of the Gulf of Finland in the middle of the 11th century.

The wide trade routes of the Scandinavians led to a marked economic upswing, which was reflected in the establishment of trading cities. Birka emerged after 700, Sigtuna and Lund around 1000. The international trade in luxury goods such as silver and silk from the east, weapons and glasses from the west, furs from the north and the slave trade formed the economic basis of these cities.

The foundation for the later Scandinavian empires was also laid in the 10th century. Erik Sägersäll was the first Christian king, but he returned to paganism. His son Olof Skötkonung then stayed with the Christian faith. His baptism is attributed in the sources to the English mission bishop Siegfried from York and is set for the year 1008. This led to a continued tension between the already Christianized Götaer and the pagan Svear . His son Anund Jakob gave his brother-in-law Olav the saint 400 soldiers to recapture his empire. He could not destroy the sanctuary in Uppsala , rather the pagans forced him to renounce any conversion work and to settle in the Christian Västergötland , where he established a bishopric in Skara . At the time of Saxo Grammaticus there was no fixed diocesan division. When negotiations on the status of Scandinavia began between the Archbishop of Hamburg and the Pope in 1123, Uppsala was still in pagan hands. King Erik Årsäll (1087-1088) was the last Swedish king to sacrifice in Uppsala. The first bishop in Uppsala was Siward. In 1133 he had to flee from Sweden to the Rastede monastery near Oldenburg. In 1153 negotiations began for a separate archdiocese for Sweden.

At the beginning of the 11th century the kingdom was a loose association of independent landscapes (Väster- and Östergötland, Svealand and the "small countries", Småland, in the south) with their own thing and their own laws and judges, held together by the person of the king, the had to travel from thing to thing after his election in order to be confirmed. The royal power was quite small.

During this time Sweden became Christian . The first contact with Christianity came about through the missionary work of St. Ansgar , Archbishop of Hamburg-Bremen. He made two unsuccessful mission trips to Sweden around 830 and 853. In 1008, however, King Olof Skötkonung was baptized. Nevertheless, large parts of the population were pagan until the 12th century .

High Middle Ages (1050-1389)

The actual founding of the empire happened in the High Middle Ages between 1000 and 1300 and went hand in hand with the Christianization of Sweden . With the success of the Christian missionary activity in Götaland after 1000, the Christian royal dignity with the right to recognition both in Göta and in Svealand arose . However, it was initially controversial, unstable and mostly only of regional importance. In addition, it was an electoral kingship , which often led to battles for succession to the throne. Between 1130 and 1250, the Sverkers and Eriks fought for royal power. The most important position of power after the king was held by the jarl in the 12th and 13th centuries . The last and one of the most powerful Jarle in Sweden was Birger Jarl , whose son Waldemar was elected king in 1250. However, this was deposed by his brother Magnus Ladulås in a coup. Extensive political and social reforms took place under Birger Jarl and the folk folk who followed . They succeeded in building a central power and organizing society on the model of the feudal European states. In 1350, the old state laws were finally replaced by a law applicable throughout the empire.

Seal of King Magnus Ladulås

At the same time as the expansion of royal power, the establishment of the church organization progressed. Church and royalty depended on each other. In the 11th and 12th centuries, dioceses were founded with headquarters in Skara , Linköping , Sigtuna and other places. The seat of the Archbishop of Scandinavia has been Lund in what was then Denmark since 1104. In 1164 Sweden became an independent archbishopric with its seat in Uppsala . At the church meeting in Skänninge in 1248, the church received its own canonical church order, which increased its independence from secular power. The consolidation of the position of the church had far-reaching cultural and social consequences, such as the abolition of widespread slavery in 1335.

In addition to the clergy, there was also an imperial nobility from the followers of the king and the tribal princes, which was granted tax exemption in the statutes of Alsnö in 1280 . Representatives of the imperial nobility and the church (bishops) formed the imperial council, a counterweight to the royal power. The power base of the imperial nobility was the - in contrast to many European countries not hereditary - fiefdoms whose castles were centers of administration.

In the 12th and 13th centuries the policy of expansion to the east was also taken up, with the aim of annexing Finland , which took place in the form of several crusades . In 1288 Gotland was bound to Sweden by treaty.

The beginning of the 14th century was carried throne struggles within the royal dynasty of Folkunger coined. This led to a strengthening of the nobility and subsequently to conflicts between the king and imperial council or the council aristocracy. King Birger Magnusson was expelled in 1317 and his successor Magnus Eriksson was deposed in 1363. Albrecht von Mecklenburg , elected in 1364, was also overthrown in 1389 after trying to strengthen the royal power.

In the course of the High Middle Ages, the northern European states of Denmark-Norway , Sweden-Finland and Russia began collecting taxes on the Sami in the far north, which had to be paid in kind. For Sweden, this was done by traders working in trust in northern Finland - the so-called "Birkarle" (the name is derived from bjór "Biber"). They divided the Sami country into trading districts called " Lappmarken ", which were valid for many centuries. Territorial claims on the part of the crown were not yet made at this time and there were only a few settlers of Swedish origin on the great Nordic salmon rivers.

Kalmar Union (1389-1523)

In 1388, the Danish Queen Margarethe I was recognized as the Swedish ruler by an insurgent aristocratic faction. After the victory over Albrecht the following year, Denmark , Norway and Sweden were united under one regent. In 1397 Margaret's nephew Erich von Pomerania was crowned King of the Three Kingdoms and the Kalmar Union was established. It existed until 1523, even if it rarely worked.

Margarethe and Erich's policy was aimed at limiting and suppressing aristocratic power. The Reichsrat was disempowered and a centralized administration based in Denmark with mainly Danish and German bailiffs was established. This led - supported by the peasants, who had been imposed new comprehensive taxes - to the Engelbrekt uprising of 1434-36, which ended with the deposition and expulsion of the king.

Stockholm bloodbath

The following decades were chaotic and marked by internal struggles and frequent changes of government. Political power rested with the council aristocracy, which was deeply divided between supporters and opponents of the Kalmar Union. At certain times the Union kings were also recognized in Sweden. In between, the Swedish King Karl Knutsson (1448–57, 1464–65 and 1467–70) and Swedish imperial administrators ruled . After Karl's death, the attempt by the Danish Union King to recapture Sweden failed in the Battle of Brunkeberg in 1471 .

In these conflicts a strong Swedish national feeling arose, which was also noticeable in intellectual life. So the first Swedish was 1477 University in Uppsala , founded in 1483 by the Lübeck printer Johann Snell of letterpress introduced and towards the end of the 15th century appeared the first printed books in Swedish.

The conflict with the Union kings and the internal opposition culminated under the imperial administrator Sten Sture the Younger , who ruled between 1512 and 1520. Christian II defeated his Swedish opponents in 1520 and in November of the same year had around a hundred members of the opposition executed in the so-called Stockholm massacre . This led to the riot of Gustav Wasa , who was appointed imperial administrator in 1521 , and the final collapse of the Kalmar Union.

The Wasa Period (1523-1611)

Swedish coat of arms around 1600 (Siebmacher 1605)

Gustav Wasa's rebellion was actively supported by Lübeck and with its help he was able to take Stockholm in 1523 . On June 6th of the same year he was elected king at the Swedish Diet in Strängnäs . The Swedish National Day is dedicated to the memory of this event and the independence that Sweden achieved with it . Gustav Wasa's actual coronation only took place on January 12, 1528 in Uppsala Cathedral .

Relations with Denmark weakened as a result, as Christian II was also deposed there. The dependence on Lübeck was finally shaken off in 1533. In terms of domestic politics, Gustav Wasa's goal was to strengthen the central power. The first decisive step towards this was the council meeting in Västerås in 1527 , at which the old council front was dissolved and the secular power of the bishops was broken. The first steps towards the Reformation were also initiated, which led to the separation from the Catholic Church in the 1530s. The confiscation of ecclesiastical goods, which made up about a fifth of the entire property, led to a decisive strengthening of the royal finances. At the same time, the basis for a central administration was laid, which was modernized in the years 1538–1542 based on foreign models, and the tax system was also reorganized. This led to violent uprisings that culminated in the Dacke uprising of 1542. Other important steps on the way to centralization were the Diet of Västerås in 1544, in which the elective kingship was replaced by the hereditary kingship , and the renewal of the national defense. The second half of the 16th century was marked by the struggle of the countries bordering the Baltic Sea for control of the Baltic States . A foreign policy constellation developed that continued into the 18th century. The occasion was the collapse of the Teutonic Order , which led to a race for rule over its territories and resulted in several Northern Wars . Sweden came into conflict with Denmark, the Russian Zartum and Poland-Lithuania.

After Gustav Va's death in 1560, there were disputes between his sons. First the eldest son Erik XIV became king. The intervention of Erik XIV in the Livonian War (1558–1583), through which Sweden gained control of Tallinn and the northern part of Livonia, now Estonia , in 1561 , marked the beginning of the struggle for control of the Baltic Sea. A short time later, Erik XIV was forced in the Nordic Seven Years War ( Three Crowns War from 1563 to 1570) to repel attempts by Denmark to restore the Kalmar Union in its original form. The swift fall of the well-equipped fortress Älvsborg, the invasion of a larger, war-trained mercenary army, incompetent Swedish commanders and disputes between Erik XIV and his brother Johan over the sovereignty of the Duchy of Finland made Swedish warfare difficult. The military failures of the as yet unsettled young nation-state deepened the crisis of the early absolutist kingdom in Sweden. Erik XIV was overthrown by his brothers Johan and Karl in 1568 and died in prison, probably by poisoning. In January 1569, his brother was named Johan III. proclaimed king. The country now urgently needed a respite in the war for the rule of the Baltic Sea, as both warring parties were bled to death and economically weakened. The Peace of Stettin on October 13, 1570 ended the seven-year struggle without any significant advantage for either side. Sweden renounced the southern landscapes, Denmark renounced all claims to rule over Sweden. At the same time, Sweden had to raise large sums of money to release Danish-occupied territories. By the takeover of power by Johans III. A year earlier there was a fundamental reorientation in foreign policy. The overthrown King Erik IV bought the neutrality of Tsar Ivan IV with numerous concessions in the Baltic States. He entered into an alliance with the previous enemy Poland. Consequently, Russia had to become a new direct opponent. A war was wanted by both rulers, which strained the relationship between Swedes and Russians for generations.

At the Northern War, a 25-year war with the Russian Zartum (1570–1595) for Karelian, Novgorodian and Livonian territories began. The promised Polish help did not come after the death of Sigismund August 1572. Tsar Ivan IV conquered almost every castle and palace of Johans III. and devastated Livonia too. Eventually the Swedish and Polish armies united. The Swedish general Pontus de la Gardie stormed Narva and other Russian fortresses in 1581, regained Estonia and conquered Ingermanland. Then Poland-Lithuania and Russia made peace, as the Polish allies feared the Swedish increase in power. The Swedes could not and would not continue the war alone. In 1583 the exhausted opponents concluded an armistice which led to the Peace of Teusina in 1595 . The war brought Sweden control of the city of Narva and the entire coastal area of ​​the Gulf of Finland.

Johan III died in 1592. His son Sigismund became King of Sweden in 1592. He was already King of Poland from 1587. This was the declared aim of his father, who aspired to a Swedish-Polish union and for this reason had Sigismund brought up a Catholic. But since Sigismund was a Catholic and it was feared that he would support the Counter-Reformation , at the Synod of Uppsala in 1593 the Imperial Council and the pastorate declared Lutheranism to be the only religion permitted in Sweden. In the following year, Duke Karl, Sigismund's uncle, initiated the power struggle that led to the deposition of Sigismund in 1599 and the coronation of Charles in 1604. This was the beginning of bitter clashes between Sweden and Poland .

Further conflicts with Moscow and Poland over Russian territories on the Baltic Sea during the time of turmoil led to new Swedish conquests and in 1613 almost to Charles IX's accession to the throne . Son Karl Filip of Sweden as Tsar of Russia and thus to a possible Swedish-Russian empire. Ultimately, Russia was able to maintain its independence with the establishment of the Romanov dynasty and the peace of Stolbowo . While Sweden was busy putting Karl Filip on the Moscow throne, Denmark took the opportunity to engage Sweden in a two-front war. The Kalmar War ended with the adverse Sweden Peace of Knäred in 1613 and committed the country to high war reparations and restrictions Eismeer- and Baltic trade . As a result, however, it can be said that Sweden developed in the second half of the 16th century from a monarchy focused on domestic and dynastic problems to an expansive foreign policy in the Baltic Sea. This development continued in the 17th century.

Residential areas of the various Sámi groups in the 16th century. Until then, Lapland was not part of any European state

During the Wasa period - especially in competition with Russia, which was also advancing northwards - Sweden's first claims to rule over the territories of the Lapps emerged. The taxes were increased more and more, various compulsory services were introduced for the sovereigns and the church began to Christianize the pagans. In 1553, state collectors took over tax collection from the Birkarlen in order to gain more control over the northerners. Since this task was very difficult for the nomadic hunters and reindeer herders, some administrative measures were carried out in the period that followed, which considerably restricted the autonomy of the Sami and led to momentous changes in their way of life. The so-called "Lappbyar" were made from the former Lapp brands of the traders and the traditional territories of the individual hunting communities ( Siida ). At key points addressed to trade items (z. B. Jokkmokk , Lycksele , Arjeplog , Enontekiö ) or Kirchdörfer (z. B. Arvidsjaur , Jukkasjärvi ), which are regularly visited by the seeds had . In addition, the previously free land was made the property of individual persons, who from then on stood as guarantors and responsible persons between the state and their people.

Sweden as a great power (1611-1719)

Territorial expansion of Sweden 1560–1660
Charles X of Sweden , after Ehrenstahl
Gustav II Adolf

In 1611 the 17 year old Gustav II Adolf took over the rule after the death of his father. He succeeded in continuing the Baltic Sea policy and conquering Ingermanland and Kexholm (the area west and north of Lake Ladoga ) as well as Livonia from Poland-Lithuania before he turned to Germany in 1630, on whose territory the Thirty Years' War was raging.

These successes were made possible by an internal reorganization. When taking office, a royal declaration granted the Reichsrat and the Reichstag a political say. The Reichsrat was given a clear role in government, and the resolutions of the Reichstag were obtained on questions of war and peace, taxes and levies. The four estates represented in the Reichstag reflected the social structure of that time: the nobility, who had received extensive privileges in 1612, had a monopoly on all higher offices. At the same time, this class boundary was permeable, so that the number of nobles increased fivefold through new ennobling in the 17th century . The clergy played an important role in a state ideology in which church and state were closely fused. The bourgeoisie gained growing importance in the context of mercantilist economic policy. The fact that the farmers were finally represented as the fourth estate in the Reichstag was unique in Europe, and can be historically explained by the fact that there had never been bonded or serf peasants in Sweden, and more than a third of the property was in the hands of free peasants . They played an important role, above all through their local institutions, in tax matters and in matters relating to the recruitment of soldiers, most of whom came from farming families. A constant dialogue between the government and the governed explains the inner peace despite increasing burdens due to the numerous wars.

The desire for great power of the Swedish monarchy also led to the expansion of the national territory to Lapland , which until then (with the exception of the Norwegian coastal regions) was almost exclusively settled by the Sami . Since 1635 members of this people have been forced to work in the silver mines. The colonization of Lapland with new Swedish citizens began in 1650, although this only remained very sporadic for around a hundred years. From 1680 ever more massive pressure was exerted on the last followers of the Sami ethnic religion , which was expressed in the burning of the holy drums, but also in individual acts of violence. In 1695 the poll tax in kind was converted into a monetary local tax. In addition, there were the obligations to maintain winter paths and to transport materials for the officials and traders. This took so much time that food acquisition suffered. Many Sami became impoverished, had to give up reindeer herding or fled to Norway.

The vision of Sweden as a great power was also reflected in other areas, especially in the field of education. The University of Uppsala , which had stagnated after the Reformation, was now actively promoted, at the same time three other universities were founded in Dorpat (Tartu), Åbo (Turku) and Lund by 1668 . A grammar school was founded in every episcopal city and illiteracy decreased significantly. The imperial administration was expanded and the regional and local organs of civil and military administration were standardized. Parts of this administrative system still exist today.

The biggest problem for great power politics was the weak population base. In 1625 the kingdom had around 1.1 million inhabitants, 800,000 of them in the Swedish heartland, but that was neither a tax base nor a recruiting document for the army. Therefore, a mercantilist trade and economic policy with a strong export orientation was pursued, and the immigration of foreign skilled workers and the influx of foreign capital (especially from the Netherlands and Germany) were actively promoted. Sweden became the largest exporter of wrought iron and cannons. Copper and wood products were other important export products.

After the acquisition of the Baltic States and the Russian coastal areas, foreign policy was directed towards Germany and Poland-Lithuania . The imperial troops had reached the Baltic Sea , and Sweden's entry into the war could be portrayed as a preventive defensive war before the Reichstag, which finally gave its approval. When Sweden invaded Pomerania in 1630 , it had no allies, but a subsidiar treaty with France in 1631 improved the situation. The victory at Breitenfeld in the same year was a turning point. The political goals grew with the successes, but the death of Gustav II Adolf near Lützen in 1632 changed the situation. Nevertheless, Sweden continued the war under Chancellor Axel Oxenstierna (the daughter of Gustav II Adolf was only six years old). 1643–1645 there was war on Denmark and in the peace of Brömsebro got the provinces Gotland , Jämtland , Härjedalen and Halland , while the Westphalian peace of 1648 led to the acquisition of Bremen-Verden (see also Bederkesa Castle ), Wismar , Western Pomerania and other areas. Another war against Poland , initiated in 1644 and joined by Denmark and Russia on the enemy side, was temporarily ended in 1658, and in the Peace of Roskilde the provinces of Bohuslän , Skåne and Blekinge came under Swedish rule. In the same year the war was resumed, but when King Charles X suddenly died in 1660, the guardianship government tried to protect his son Charles XI. A peace treaty that resulted in the Peace of Oliva in 1660. The areas in the Baltic and Ingermanland, which Sweden lost in the Russo-Swedish War 1656-1658 , could be regained in the Peace of Kardis .

Building absolutism in Sweden

In the following twelve years, Chancellor Magnus Gabriel De la Gardie tried to stabilize the political situation and to rehabilitate the catastrophic financial situation of the empire. With the accession of the now of legal age young King Charles XI. In 1672 Sweden gave up its cautious foreign policy and was drawn into the Scandinavian War and the Swedish-Brandenburg War (1674–1679) on the side of France, which was also waging the Dutch War . In the course of the war there were clear weaknesses in the army and navy, which temporarily brought Sweden to the brink of defeat. The defeat against the Brandenburg troops in the Battle of Fehrbellin in 1675 was seen as the first visible expression of the consequences of the previous mismanagement by the noble guardianship government. The army lacked weapons, equipment, provisions and money. Furthermore, the state coffers were empty, the royal domains pledged or given away. Nevertheless, the young King Charles XI succeeded. in a short campaign to inflict a crushing defeat on the Danish army, which had landed in southern Sweden, in the battle of Lund . Due to the identified deficiencies, a further reduction was demanded in the Reichstag in 1680 in order not to be dependent on foreign subsidies in the future . The crown could only get the money it needed from its former property. The nobility tripled their land holdings in the 17th century. With the votes of the taxable classes and a part of the lower nobility, the king was able to get back this possession of the goods given to the nobility in recent decades. More than half of the possessions of the high nobility came back to the crown.

The new Swedish absolutism changed the feudal structures and disempowered the estates. From now on, members of the bourgeoisie rose more quickly to the nobility. On the other hand, the bourgeoisie of part of the nobility accelerated. At the same time, a particularly extensive layer of influential officials in the army and administration developed. In 1682, the Royal Council and the Diet agreed that the legislation should be bound to the King. This was previously with the Reichstag. From now on, Charles XI. Own laws. The king became the sole ruler, the Reichstag only had an advisory function. The fact that this was possible without a major power struggle with the nobility was based on the support of the king by the peasants and citizens, who preferred an effective and strong royal power to the oligarchy, as well as by the low service nobility and the officers who were one in the new military organization saw secure source of income. The reforms in the peacetime from 1679 to 1700 allowed Sweden to recover. When Charles XI. died on April 5, 1697 after severe, excruciating cancer, the army was reorganized. The implementation of the reduction, the restructuring of the imperial finances, the breaking of the power of the nobility and the formation of an absolutist great power state remained as lasting merits. He managed to stabilize the already ailing Swedish empire once again, and he created the conditions for the early Swedish successes in the coming war, which in the end was to break the Swedish great power.

End of the great power era

The signing of the Nystadt Peace Treaty on August 20, 1721. Etching, 1721.

After the early death of Charles XI. the 15-year-old Karl XII climbed . of Sweden (1682-1718) took the throne as his successor. The Holstein question had long been a burden on relations between Denmark and Sweden. In Copenhagen, Holstein-Gottorp was still considered part of Danish territory. An agreed Holstein-Gottorps alliance with Sweden was a great threat to the now encircled Denmark. When the death of Charles XI. was confirmed and the new king was considered inexperienced, Denmark saw the time for action and set troops on the march against Holstein-Gottorp. Immediately after his coronation in 1697, Charles XII. decreed that the army should be enlarged so that by the end of 1700 Sweden had more than 85,000 registered soldiers. After the Holstein-Gottorp conflict between Denmark and Sweden expanded, Copenhagen intensified secret talks with Tsarist Russia. Tsar Peter I was also keen to limit Swedish influence. The newly elected King of Poland, August II, was quickly won over. In 1699 a secret attack alliance against the hated Swedish neighbor grew out of it. In 1700, Denmark, Saxony-Poland and Russia opened the Great Northern War (1700–1721), which after initial Swedish successes in 1709 through the Swedish debacle in the Battle of Poltava , after the death of Charles XII. 1718, led to the defeat of Sweden in 1721 and put an end to the Swedish claim to supremacy in Northern Europe. Livonia , part of Swedish Pomerania and Bremen-Verden were lost to Sweden. The new Russian Empire took over from Sweden in the European alliance system as a Northern European great power. Sweden's political importance, however, was reduced and it was again a state on the periphery of Europe.

The colonization of the Swedish possessions in Africa , North America and the Caribbean, which were only temporarily significant for Sweden, also fell during this period . In North America, it was above all the colony of New Sweden, with which Sweden was able to establish a trading and settlement colony in an advantageous position on the lower reaches of the Delaware River from 1638 onwards. However, a conflict with the troops of the Dutch colony of New Netherlands , which was carried out by military force, led to the loss of this colony, which was developing so hopefully for Sweden, as early as 1655. Today the area of ​​this former Swedish colonial property belongs to the three US states of Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

The time of freedom (1719–1772)

Already during the last years of Charles XII. a secret opposition grew. It relied on some of the old council aristocrats, senior officials, and generals. They forced the new Queen Ulrika Eleonore to renounce all absolutist aspirations. Karl's sister promised to accept the authority of the Reichsrat and the Estates Assembly. After the death of Charles XII. the estates used the unclear succession relationships to enforce a new constitution in the years 1719/20 , which entrusted the Reichstag with sole legislation. The Reichstag still consisted of the four estates (nobility, priests, citizens and peasants). That is, domestically, the estates had clearly gained superiority over the royal power. The estates declared themselves as bearers of popular sovereignty. They underlined that the monarch received his power from the people and not from God. Of the four classes of nobility, clergy, and citizens and peasants, the nobility dominated. The king remained largely excluded from foreign policy. This was mainly decided by the Secret Committee. Charles XII. Sister resigned in 1720 in favor of her husband Friedrich von Hessen . On March 24, 1720, the council and estates elected him king. Frederick I's hopes of securing more rights for the royal power than Ulrika Eleonare did, were quickly dashed. Only in the Reichsrat , a body of 16 aristocrats, did the ruler receive two votes. He was thus almost without influence.

Over time, two political groups developed, the so-called Hattarne ("hats") and Mössorna ("hats"). The Hattarne , an aristocratic party, represented a mercantilist economic policy with active promotion of manufactories and exports as well as a revanchist foreign policy against Russia with the support of France. The Mössorna , with an anti-aristocratic orientation, safeguarded the interests of agriculture and pursued a cautious foreign policy that sought a compromise with Russia and a rapprochement with Great Britain. In the first half of the century the Hattarne were mostly in power and they also involved Sweden in two wars.

East Indiaman Gothenburg, copy

Mercantilism dominated economic policy. The foreign trade was given special attention, and therefore 1731 was a Swedish East India Company founded. In addition, a state subsidy for manufacturers was set up to reduce the country's dependence on imports. The most important export product was still iron, which was processed in several hundred ironworks in the country.

In agriculture, too, new ideas prevailed and agricultural reforms, such as the amalgamation of free float, led to an improvement in the economic situation of the rural population. In addition, the peasants managed to form themselves in the political disputes in the Reichstag and to achieve a strong political position. Towards the end of the period of freedom, they became the driving force in the Reichstag.

In the Polish War of Succession 1733–1738, Sweden supported Stanislaus I. Leszczyński against August III. In 1751 the estates elected the Holstein prince Adolf Friedrich as king, who was married to Ulrike Louise , the sister of Friedrich II. This sought to restore royal power, which resulted in a coup in 1756, which failed, however, and further strengthened the power of the estates. While the king refused to allow Sweden to participate in the impending war against Prussia, the nobility had not given up regaining their previous position of power in Europe and entered the Seven Years War as a guarantor of the Peace of Westphalia . However, the Pomeranian War , as the Seven Years' War is called in Sweden, ended in another defeat and resulted in the country having to come to terms with its role as a regional power in the future.

So one turned his gaze more and more to the north, where there was still huge territorial potential. At first, the pressure on the Sami was increased: The hunters and gatherers living in the forests of central Sweden were degraded to so-called “community rags”, who had to do work such as slaughtering and neutering horses, preparing furs and doing similar things for the sovereigns. Only the handicrafts remained for them from their old way of life. In northern Sweden a resettlement policy took place between 1720 and 1729, which tore the social fabric of the local Sami. In 1732 the natural scientist Carl von Linné made his famous trip to Lapland, which made a significant contribution to the scientific exploration of the subarctic north. In 1749 a royal decree promised tax exemption and work in the ore mines of the north for new residents. This triggered the systematic colonization of the north, which began in the following years. With foresight, the rights of the Sami and the Swedes were carefully regulated to prevent disputes. People's neighborhood usually functioned without conflict and was characterized by mutual help. This was mainly because many of the new residents were Saami themselves who had given up reindeer herding but wanted to stay on their traditional land. In 1751 Finnmark fell to Norway. However, the so-called “Lappencodex” has since then continued to allow reindeer herders in the mountain areas to cross state borders.

The ideas of the Enlightenment came to Sweden during the period of freedom . At the instigation of Anders Chydenius , the Tryckfrihetsförordningen ("Freedom of Print Ordinance", law on freedom of the press) was finally enacted in 1766 , in which freedom of the press and - as the first country in the world - the publicity principle ("public principle") were guaranteed, which further fueled the political debate . The new freedom led to a breakthrough in the fields of economy, science and literature.

The Gustavian Era (1772–1809)

Gustav III

Gustav III had ascended the throne in 1771, which at that time only had representative functions. In 1772 he staged a coup against the Reichstag and enforced a new constitution that gave the king the power of government, while it severely restricted the power of the Reichstag. The king, who claimed to be above party and class disputes, relied on the nobility, while in his economic policy he followed the economical and liberal policy of the "Mössorna".

Due to the new political situation, the provincial governments of the large states of northern Sweden are breaking the “rag tax law”, releasing the Sami from their own jurisdiction and annexing their entire country.

Gustav III carried out a number of reforms, including trying to establish a liquor monopoly, building hospitals and employing district doctors, and the first communal poorhouses. But Gustav III. especially interested in cultural life. In 1786 he founded the Swedish Academy on the model of the French Académie Française , he had an opera house built and promoted the fine arts and architecture. During this time, a style of its own in Sweden, the Gustavian style , emerged in the fields of interior design, cabinet making and silversmiths .

But hard times came for the political opposition. In 1774 the freedom of the press was restricted, and politics, state church and religion were not allowed to be discussed. Gustav's style of government became increasingly authoritarian, and when the nobility, deprived of their influence, turned against the king at the Diet of 1786, Gustav III. the country went to war against Russia (1788–1790) to strengthen its domestic political position. Dissatisfaction with the war led to a mutiny of more than a hundred, mostly noble officers at the front in Finland. Gustav III knew how to exploit the royalism that flared up as a reaction to this mutiny to introduce an absolutist form of government with the help of the non-aristocratic classes. At the same time, the privileges of the nobility were largely abolished. The opposition to the king now continued underground. In 1792 Gustav III was assassinated at a masked ball. perpetrated, which he succumbed two weeks later.

His son Gustav IV Adolf succeeded him on the throne. He was an opponent of the French Revolution and joined the anti-French coalition . In 1807 Russia left the coalition and concluded an agreement with Napoleon I , whereupon it attacked Sweden in 1808 ( Russo-Swedish War 1808-1809 ). The Russian troops quickly occupied Finland and the coast of Norrland as far as Umeå . The Swedish failures led to the deposition of the king in a coup in March 1809. In the Peace of Fredrikshamn on September 17, Sweden had to cede Finland , Åland and the eastern part of Västerbotten to Russia as far as the Torne älv river .

The 19th century (1809-1906)

Sweden and Norway around 1888

On May 10, 1809, it was decided at the Chamber of Commerce Congress to exclude Gustav IV Adolf and his descendants from the line of succession. In its place was his uncle, when Karl XIII. , elected king on June 6th, but only after he had approved a new constitutional law, the Successionsordningen , passed by the Reichstag . The new constitution was based on the idea of ​​the separation of powers , even if one cannot yet speak of a parliamentary system. The king still had legislative power and the class division of the Reichstag was retained. But basic civil rights were defined.

Since Charles XIII. but was old and without heirs, an heir to the throne had to be elected again. The choice fell on the Danish prince Kristian August, who died in a riding accident in 1810. In the election that followed, Jean Baptiste Bernadotte , a French marshal, was elected heir to the throne. In the autumn of the same year he came to Sweden, adopted the Protestant faith and the name Crown Prince Karl Johann and was by Karl XIII. adopted. Even if he was crowned in 1818, after the death of Charles XIII, when Charles XIV John , he took over the affairs of government for the ailing adoptive father.

When Napoléon forced Sweden to wage war with Great Britain - the war was declared, but not waged on either side - and illegally occupied Swedish Pomerania for his Russian campaign, Crown Prince Karl Johann turned away from France. He initiated his government with a complete reorientation of foreign policy, namely from the past in the east to a future in the west. In an agreement with the Russian Tsar Alexander I in 1812, he renounced Finland. Sweden then took part in the campaign against Napoleon I and then turned against Denmark.

In the Peace of Kiel on January 14, 1814, Denmark had to cede from its entire state of Norway to Sweden in the agreed exchange for Swedish Pomerania . When Norway subsequently declared its independence, Crown Prince Karl Johann forced the establishment of the personal union through the short, almost bloodless Swedish-Norwegian War : Norway remained an independent kingdom after the Moss Convention of August 14, 1814, and Sweden's King Karl XIII. received the title of King Charles II of Norway. After this last war, Crown Prince Karl Johann pursued a consistent peace policy that became the basis of Swedish neutrality .

The Napoleonic Wars hit Sweden's economy hard, leading to economic stagnation and profound crises. Sweden was a decidedly agricultural state in the first half of the 19th century , and industrialization began late. The largest reforms also took place in the agricultural sector, where comprehensive land consolidation and parceling ordinances drastically changed both the economic situation and peasant culture. In the industrial sector, which was dominated by the numerous smelting works, new technologies and competition, especially from Great Britain, led to extensive closures. A major infrastructure project was the construction of the Göta Canal , which was supposed to connect the Baltic Sea with the Kattegat , but which soon after its inauguration proved to be out of date.

In contrast, Sweden experienced a heyday in the cultural and scientific fields. In 1842, compulsory schooling was introduced in a school reform and elementary schools were prescribed in every municipality.

Between 1815 and 1850 the population rose from 2.5 to 3.5 million, especially in the countryside, where 90 percent of the population still lived in 1850. This led to great social problems and to massive emigration to the United States from around 1840, which peaked around 1880 and only subsided from 1900. By 1930 more than 1.2 million Swedes left the country, of which around 200,000 returned, often with capital and new knowledge. The Utvandrarnas väg from Eriksmåla to Karlshamn reminds us today of the time of emigration.

Historical migration to and from Sweden

The situation of the Sami in the north, who lived under increasingly miserable social conditions due to centuries of paternalism and oppression, developed even worse . Among other things, their hunting rights were restricted. In 1844 they turned in droves to the botanist and pastor Lars Levi Laestadius , who felt himself called by God to bring the Sami true Christianity, which for him through the great emotionality of the masses to ecstasy, great faithfulness to the Bible and the emphasis on the highest moral Principles (including alcohol abstinence) was marked. This crisis cult is comparable to the spirit dance movement of the North American Indians. In the course of this movement, there was a violent confrontation in Kautokeino in 1852 , which, however, cannot be compared to the massacres in the USA.

After the death of Karl XIV. Johann in 1844, who had pursued a strictly conservative policy in domestic politics, the possibility of liberalization opened up, at least in the economic and socio-political area. Gradually were under Oscar I and his successor Karl XV. economic life liberalized and social reforms carried out. In a constitutional reform of 1865-66, the four-tier parliament was replaced by a bicameral parliament .

The breakthrough of industrialization began in 1870 . The expansion of the railway network and new technologies in steel production made it possible to utilize new ore finds in Norrland . At the same time, the wood industry was at a high point and a sizable paper and pulp industry developed. New inventions led to the establishment of companies in the mechanical engineering and electrical sectors (such as LM Ericsson , ASEA , Bofors , SKF , AGA ). At the same time, however, agriculture experienced a serious crisis.

In the second half of the 19th century the transformation from agricultural land to industrial society took place . The population increased from 3.5 million (1850) to 5.1 million (1900). Much of the population was not entitled to vote, but the great popular movements that still have a clear political influence today emerged: the free church revival movement , the abstinence movement and the workers' movement .

The situation in Lapland remained twofold: for the Swedes, the mining of iron ore in Kiruna and Gällivare , which began in 1888, and the later railroad brought work and prosperity. For the Sami, the living conditions deteriorated further: the borders of the Lappmarken were shifted further to the west and the Sami culture was subject to accelerated social change . With the spread of social Darwinism in Europe, there was a racial separation of the supposedly “primitive” nomads from the other Swedes in Sweden. From the end of the 19th century until the 1920s, the government took the view that the Sami had to be patronized because they were unable to take on a higher cultural level. They were "protected" in such a way that so-called "nomad schools" were set up, in which the Sami children were taught at the lowest level or the Sami were forbidden to live in "real" (rectangular) houses.

In foreign policy, Oscar II's accession to the throne in 1872 led to a reorientation from the traditional friendship with France to an increasingly clear rapprochement with Germany , which was evident in the military, in business, in science and in cultural life. The most difficult foreign policy problem, however, was the relationship with Norway , in which increasingly stronger aspirations for independence made themselves felt, and which finally led to the dissolution of the union in 1905 with the Treaty of Karlstad .

The breakthrough of democracy (1907–1920)

In 1866, the medieval Estates Day was replaced by a bicameral parliament, but only around 20% of the male population were eligible to vote, as only the second chamber - and this was elected according to a census suffrage. An extra-parliamentary suffrage movement emerged in the 1880s, supported by the Social Democrats and the Liberals. The introduction of conscription became the strongest argument. The catchphrase “one man, one voice, one gun” made a deep impression on the conservatives too. In an electoral reform in 1907, universal suffrage for men (with certain restrictions) was finally introduced for the Second Chamber of Parliament and the First Chamber was also partially democratized. Class antagonisms, however, were great, and the general strike of 1909 deepened the rift between Social Democrats and Liberals or Conservatives. The most important domestic issue, however, was the defense issue. When the liberal Staaff government postponed armament plans in order to lower defense costs in favor of a social reform policy, there was a violent political argument with the conservatives, in which King Gustav V finally intervened in 1911 on the part of those who favored rearmament. A real constitutional crisis evoked the military-friendly speech that Gustav gave on February 6, 1914 to 30,000 farmers who had moved to Stockholm from all over the country ( Borggårdskrise ) , which was not read by the Minister of State . This led to the resignation of the government and the appointment of a royal civil service under Hjalmar Hammarskjöld (father of Dag Hammarskjöld ).

But after the outbreak of World War I, the political opponents made peace and supported the new government. The country declared its neutrality, but maintained lively trade, especially with Germany, which led to a limited blockade by the Entente powers . As a result of this and the extensive exports of food to Germany, supplying the population became increasingly difficult. Famine broke out, and there was also a radicalization in politics, which ultimately led to the establishment of a communist party (socialdemokratiska vänsterparti) . In the spring of 1917, the Hammarskjöld government resigned, and after the socialist successes in the election to the second parliamentary chamber in 1917, a liberal-social-democratic coalition government was formed. Since then Sweden has been a de facto parliamentary monarchy , even if this has not yet been reflected in the current constitutional text.

The efforts of a group of Norwegian and Swedish Sami under Elsa Laula Renberg , on whose initiative a first transnational, political meeting took place in 1917, in which land rights and cultural independence were proclaimed for the Sami , also stood under these auspices .

Under the impression of the German defeat and due to the radical mood in the country, a new electoral reform was carried out between 1918 and 1921. Universal suffrage and women's suffrage have now been introduced for all elections. The last electoral restrictions affecting income were not abolished until 1945.

The interwar period (1920–1939)

Demonstration march in Ådalen just before the military opens fire

The 1920s were marked by a strong industrial boom. Large companies such as Bofors , Aktiebolaget Gas-Accumulator (AGA), Svenska Kullagerfabriken (SKF), Allmänna Svenska Elektriska Aktiebolaget (ASEA), Ericsson and Electrolux as well as a comprehensive shipbuilding industry emerged. Politically, the contrasts between the bourgeois bloc and the Social Democrats came to the fore again. The Social Democrats were too weak to form their own government, but the bourgeois parties were deeply divided. Conservatives , liberals, and a newly formed peasant party had different views on several key political issues such as school policy, defense policy, and alcohol policy. A number of different minority governments and frequent changes of government characterized the political situation in the 1920s.

In 1922 the Swedish State Institute for Racial Biology carried out the so-called “Lappenprüfung”, which was supposed to prove that racial intermingling between Sami and North Germanic people would lead to the ruin of society. In addition, large Sami groups were forced to move from northernmost Sweden to more southern regions in the 1920s and 30s. This contrasts with the first civil rights granted to the Sami by the provincial government in Jämtland.

In 1930 the Great Depression also hit Sweden. The deployment of the military against strikers in Ådalen in 1931 and the sensational bankruptcy of the Kreuger concern prepared a change of political power: After the elections of 1932, the Social Democrats under Per Albin Hansson formed a government that was supported by the Peasant Party from 1933. Their reform policies first included employment programs and agricultural subsidies to counter the effects of the economic crisis. In 1936 the two parties formed a coalition and presented a comprehensive social policy program to expand the welfare state . With the Saltsjöbaden Agreement between employers' representatives and trade unions in 1938, the foundation stone for the “Swedish model” was laid. The dream of the “ people's home ” was delayed due to the outbreak of the Second World War .

The Second World War (1939-1945)

At the beginning of the Second World War , Sweden again declared its neutrality. The declared aim of the neutrality policy was not neutrality itself, but to avoid being drawn to war.

The attack by the Soviet Union on Finland in November 1939 put the Swedish government to the test. The immediate result was a comprehensive government reshuffle, with a concentration government taking over state affairs to the exclusion of the communists. Although the government did not comply with the widespread demand in Sweden for direct military aid, it did support Finland financially and with military equipment. Permission was also given to set up a Swedish volunteer corps. The approximately 8,000-strong volunteer corps also included special units, artillery and flight squadrons. At the same time the proposal by Great Britain and France to send regular troops from Narvik to Finland via Swedish territory was rejected .

The next critical situation arose when Germany attacked Denmark and Norway on April 9, 1940 ( Operation Weser Exercise ). The Norwegian king and parts of the government and parliament managed to escape the German troops. When the Norwegian Foreign Minister Halvdan Koht asked his Swedish colleague Christian Günther (Cabinet Hansson III) on April 12 whether the king, the Crown Prince and members of the government persecuted by the Germans could flee to Sweden, they were threatened with internment Norway stayed and later fled to Great Britain.

The neutrality policy towards Germany was quite different. One month after the German attack on Denmark and Norway, the Swedish government decided to authorize holiday transports between occupied Norway and Germany via Swedish territory. These transports were expanded a few months later (a daily train in both directions) and in addition to soldiers, war equipment and ammunition were also transported. This policy of concessions reached its climax when, after the German attack on the Soviet Union in 1941, the Swedish government gave in to German demands and approved the transport of a German division from Norway via Sweden to Finland to the Russian front.

In December 1940, the most extensive trade agreement between Germany and Sweden to date was concluded. Germany became Sweden's most important trading partner. After the Skagerrak was closed , around 90% of Swedish exports went to Germany. The most important export good was iron ore from the northern Swedish ore fields.

The policy of the Swedish government has been heavily criticized in some cases, including a. in some anti-Nazi newspapers such as the newspaper Göteborgs Handels-och Sjöfartstidning , whose editor-in-chief Torgny Karl Segerstedt had already caused anger in Berlin after the National Socialist seizure of power in 1933 because of his comments. The government responded to critical articles with seizures and transportation bans. The criticism didn't even have to be directed against Swedish politics. The reproduction of reports on German crimes could also lead to confiscations. But reports on the persecution of Jews in Germany could be printed, but hardly aroused any reaction.

Swedish refugee policy had been extremely restrictive even before the outbreak of World War II (with the exception of Scandinavian neighbors). A limited number of political refugees were accepted, but being a Jew in Germany was not a recognized reason for fleeing in Sweden. On the contrary, attempts were made to prevent escape opportunities, especially for Jews. Even German deserters who fled from Denmark or Norway to Sweden were immediately sent back and handed over to the German military police.

After the German defeats at Stalingrad and in North Africa, Swedish policy changed in several respects in 1943: German-Norwegian transit traffic was stopped in August 1943, in October 1943 Jewish refugees from Denmark who were to be transported to concentration camps were taken in, as were Allied bombers were able to fly over Swedish territory and an allied flight control center was set up in Malmö , diplomatic relations were established with the Norwegian government in exile and Danish and Norwegian police forces were trained. In 1943, after strong pressure, a trade agreement was concluded with the Allies, but the lucrative trade relations with Germany were largely maintained until shortly before the end of the war.

Incidentally, the legally legitimized racism against the indigenous Sami was repealed: The fact that the non-nomadic forest rags were apparently able to live on the same “cultural level” as the Swedes revealed the flaws of the social Darwinist doctrine.

Sweden's rapprochement with the Allies, including the Soviet Union, was also expressed in the extradition of interned members of the Wehrmacht , who were stranded on Sweden's coast in the last days of the war and shortly thereafter, to the Soviet Union and, to a lesser extent, to Great Britain shortly after the end of the war in 1945.

After the war ended, Sweden was satisfied with the fact that the political goal at the start of the war, namely not to be drawn to war, had been achieved. The how was not called into question, as a large part of the political and economic representatives had been involved in this policy. It was not until the 1990s that a critical appraisal began with this period, which has not yet been completed.

Since 1945

In July 1945 a single social democratic government replaced the coalition government, initially under Per Albin Hansson , and after his death in October 1946 Erlander underground . In the next few years the social reform work interrupted by the war was resumed and a modern welfare state based on the principles of the aforementioned Swedish model was created. In parallel with the expansion of the social system, work was also carried out on a constitutional reform, which was gradually implemented through several basic laws in the 1970s (see Constitution of Sweden ).

Following the recommendation of the country to join the United Nations through Resolution 8 of the UN Security Council , it joined the international community on November 19, 1946.

On September 3, 1967, the Dagen H , traffic was switched from left-hand traffic to right-hand traffic. Transport minister at the time was Olof Palme , who replaced Prime Minister Erlander in office in 1969. In the years to come, Palme shaped the image of Sweden abroad through its committed foreign policy: through its harsh criticism of the Vietnam War , as a UN mediator in the Iran-Iraq war and through its international disarmament initiatives . Domestically he encountered several difficulties: the constitutional reform and the new parliamentary situation after the Reichstag election in 1970 made stable cooperation across the bloc borders difficult; economic problems, especially after the 1973 oil crisis , made social reform work difficult.
In the 1973 election , the government and the opposition each received 175 seats - a stalemate. Votes in the Reichstag were often decided by drawing lots. The nuclear power debate divided the Social Democrats and brought a new political factor into play, environmental policy and the green movement, and the union demand for the introduction of workers' funds heightened antagonisms with the bourgeois parties. After the Social Democrats were defeated in the
elections on September 19, 1976 , Sweden was ruled by various bourgeois coalitions until Palme came to power again in October 1982 as Prime Minister of the Social Democratic government Palme II .

The submarine crisis has been the name given to the appearance of so-called "unknown diving objects" off the coast since 1980. On October 27, 1981, the Soviet submarine U-137 ran aground in front of the Karlskrona naval base - in the middle of the military prohibition zone. The accident triggered a downright submarine panic. The Soviet captain Gushchin claimed that all navigation instruments had failed. The more detailed background remained unclear.

The Social Democrats were heavily influenced by neoliberal ideas from the US and Britain. Fierce debates about neoliberal reforms of the welfare state broke out under the new Finance Minister Kjell-Olof Feldt . The conflict sparked primarily between Feldt and the chairman of the trade union confederation ( LO ), Stig Malm. This “war of the roses” ultimately led to Feldt's departure in 1990.

After Palme's assassination in 1986, Ingvar Carlsson became prime minister and continued Palme's policy on all important points. Palme's assassination caused a shock that resulted in a great silence in the political debate. After the 1991 Reichstag election , the Social Democratic Party received only 37.7 percent of the vote. Carl Bildt , who had called for a system change in line with neoliberal ideas, formed a coalition government of bourgeois parties and began to implement these ideas. The period was marked by the ongoing economic crisis (which had already started in 1990) and economic transformations that were considered necessary at the time. In the 1994 Reichstag election , the Social Democrats won and Ingvar Carlsson formed a minority government. In 1996 Carlsson handed over his official duties to Göran Persson . The policy of the following years focused on stabilizing public finances , which resulted in deep interventions in the social system. Despite the dissatisfaction caused by these interventions, the Social Democrats were able to maintain their position in government in the 1998 and 2002 elections thanks to the support of the Left Party and the Greens .

In 1995 Sweden joined the European Union after a referendum in which 52.3% voted for membership . The referendum of 1994, but also the subsequent elections and opinion polls, showed that there was widespread skepticism towards the EU. Therefore, Sweden decided in 1997 not to participate in the monetary union . Finally, in autumn 2003, this question was put to the public for a vote. A majority of the population voted against the introduction of the euro . The referendum was overshadowed by the murder of Foreign Minister Anna Lindh a few days before, who had been seen by many as Persson's successor.

In the run-up to the Reichstag elections in 2006 , the four bourgeois parties formed an electoral alliance called an alliance for Sweden , which succeeded in creating a mood of change and winning the election. The Social Democrats remained the strongest party with 34.99%, but recorded their worst result since March 1914.
On October 5, 2006, the new Reichstag elected the chairman of the Moderata samlingspartiet , Fredrik Reinfeldt , as the new Prime Minister; the next day he presented his cabinet and replaced Persson.
The Löfven I government was in office from October 3, 2014 to September 25, 2018 . After that she was acting interim government until January 21, 2019. It consisted of Social Democrats and Greens . Since then (as of March 2020) the Löfven II government has been in office .

See also

Portal: Sweden  - Overview of Wikipedia content on Sweden



Individual aspects

  • Nikolas Dörr: Swedish history in the 20th century as an object of German research. In: Jaroslaw Suchoples, Alexander Mionskowski (Hrsg.): Entbegrenzungen. The 20th Century of Northern European History as Reflected in German Research. Wrocław 2007, ISBN 978-83-229-2860-8 , pp. 43–65.
  • Stig Hadenius: Svensk politik under 1900-talet. Conflict och samförstånd. Stockholm 2000, ISBN 91-89080-50-5 .
  • Erich Hoffmann: The current state of research into the history of Scandinavia during the migration period in the context of medieval historical research. In: The historical horizon of the idol amulets from the transitional epoch from late antiquity to the early Middle Ages. Göttingen 1992, ISBN 3-525-82587-0 , pp. 143-182.
  • Alexander Muschik: The two German states and the neutral Sweden. A triangular relationship in the shadow of the open question in Germany 1949–1972. Münster 2005, ISBN 3-8258-9044-9 .
  • Alexander Muschik: Headed towards the West: Swedish Neutrality and the German Question, 1945–1972, in: Contemporary European History, 15, 4 (2006), pp. 519-538.
  • Alexander Muschik: Sweden and the Third Reich. The story of a late coming to terms. In: Robert Bohn et al. (Ed.): Politics of the past and cultures of remembrance in the shadow of World War II. Germany and Scandinavia since 1945. Essen 2008, ISBN 978-3898-619882 , pp. 57–66.
  • Charles James August Oppermann. English Missionaries in Sweden and Finland. London 1937.
  • Arndt Ruprecht: The outgoing Viking Age in the light of the runic inscriptions. Goettingen 1958.
  • Lizelotte Lundgren Rydén: Ett svenskt dilemma: socialdemokraterna, centers och EG-frågan 1957–1994. Göteborg (= Avhandlingar från Historiska institutionen i Göteborg. 23). 2000, ISBN 91-88614-29-8 . (Summary in English) (Zugl .: Göteborg, Univ., Diss., 2000)
  • Wolfgang Seegrün : The Papacy and Scandinavia. Until the completion of the Nordic church organization in 1164. Neumünster 1967.
  • Tilman Schierig: Rule and the judiciary in early modern Sweden. "What you have to orientate yourself". Hamburg 2010, ISBN 978-3-8300-5132-9 .
  • Jacqueline Taffinder: The allure of the exotic: the social use of non-local raw materials during the stone age in Sweden. Uppsala 1998, ISBN 91-506-1312-X . (Zugl .: Uppsala, Univ., Diss.)

Web links

Commons : History of Sweden  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. utexas.edu
  2. a b c d e f g h i j k Rolf Kjellström: Samernas liv (Swedish). Carlsson Bokförlag, Kristianstad 2003, ISBN 91-7203-562-5 .
  3. ^ Cavalli-Sforza, Luigi Luca: Genes, Peoples and Languages. The biological foundations of our civilization. Hanser, Munich-Vienna 1999.
  4. The name appears on a number of rune stones in local spellings: Sö Fv1948; 289, Sö 140 both in Södermanland, DR 344 in Simris in Skåne and DR 216 in Tirsted on Lolland.
  5. Hoffmann p. 144 with further references from the literature.
  6. Hoffmann, p. 145.
  7. Hoffmann, p. 136 ff. In this article all theories are presented in detail.
  8. Ruprecht p. 26.
  9. Oppermann p. 98.
  10. Halvard Bjørkvik: Folketap og Sammenbrudd 1350-1520. In: Aschehougs Norges history. Volume 4. Oslo 1996, p. 42.
  11. Ralph Tuchtenhagen: Little History of Sweden, p. 51.
  12. In a mutual correspondence, both rulers insulted each other at the lowest level. So wrote z. B. Johan III. to Ivan IV after he had written to him that Johan was of low origin: "If we had not heard that your father was a Grand Duke in Russia, we would have reason to assume that some monk or peasant fellow was your father". Johan went on to make further remarks that Ivan IV had a “higher pig mind” and was a “stinking liar”. in: Jörg-Peter Findeisen: Sweden - from the beginning to the present. Verlag Friedrich Pustet, 1997, p. 104.
  13. Ralph Tuchtenhagen: Little History of Sweden, p. 52.
  14. Jörg-Peter Findeisen: Sweden - from the beginnings to the present. Verlag Friedrich Pustet, 1997, p. 153.
  15. Cf. Jörg-Peter Findeisen: Sweden - from the beginnings to the present. Verlag Friedrich Pustet, 1997, p. 154.
  16. Ethnic groups in the Reichstag outside the traditional class scheme were thus still not represented in the Reichstag. The nobility formed the center of the Reichstag. In addition to the up to 1000 delegates of the nobility, there were around 50 representatives of the priesthood, 80 to 90 bourgeois speakers for the 101 cities and around 150 delegates of the peasant class. in: Jörg-Peter Findeisen: Sweden - from the beginning to the present. Verlag Friedrich Pustet, 1997, p. 163.
  17. See Marian Füssel: The Seven Years' War: A World War in the 18th Century, p. 18.
  18. See Marian Füssel: The Seven Years' War: A World War in the 18th Century, p. 19.
  19. Lappen-Codicill, Norwegian version in the original.
  20. a b J. Weibull: Gustav IV Adolf. In: K. Marklund et al. (Ed.) Nationalencyklopedin. Åttonde tied . Bokförlaget Bra Böcker AB, 1992. (Swedish)
  21. ^ Spencer C. Tucker (ed.): A Global Chronology of Conflict: From the Ancient World to the Modern Middle East. ABC-CLIO, 2010, ISBN 978-1-85109-667-1 .
  22. J. Weibull: Karl III. In: K. Marklund et al. (Ed.) Nationalencyklopedin. Tionde tied . Bokförlaget Bra Böcker AB, 1993, ISBN 91-7024-620-3 . (Swedish)
  23. Jenny Björkman: Perspective: Rösträttens begänsningar (Swedish). In: Popular Historia, 2002 (5), accessed June 4, 2013.
  24. L. Beckman: Democrat och debatten om de utländska medborgarnas rösträtt. (Swedish) In: K. Borevi, P. Strömblad (Eds.): Engagemang, mångfald och integration: om möjligheter och hinder för politisk jämlikhet. Statens offentliga utredningar SOU 2004, p. 49.
  25. From 1990 to 1994, per capita income fell by about ten percent The Rise and Fall of the Swedish Model. ( Memento from September 10, 2013 in the web archive archive.today )