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Sweden

The Kingdom of Sweden (Konungariket Sverige in Swedish) is a country in Scandinavia, northern Europe. It is bordered by Norway on the west and Finland in the northeast; the rest of it borders the Baltic Sea. Due to the relatively small number of inhabitants, Sweden's landscape is known for its peace and the large forests and lakes.

Konungariket Sverige
(In Detail)(Full Size)
Royal motto: För Sverige i tiden
(For Sweden - With the times)
Official language None (Swedish de facto national language)
CapitalStockholm
KingCarl XVI Gustav
Prime MinisterGöran Persson
Area
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 54th
449,964 km²
8.67%
Population
 - Total (2000)
 - Density
Ranked 82nd
8,875,053
20/km²
Independence:before 900
CurrencySwedish krona
Time zoneUTC +1
National anthemDu gamla, Du fria
Internet TLD.SE
Calling Code46

Table of contents

History Main article: History of Sweden

Conclusive archaeological evidence exists that the area now comprising Sweden was settled during the Stone Age, as the inland ice of the last ice age receded. The earliest inhabitants are thought to have been hunters and gatherers, living primarily off what the sea (later called the Baltic Sea) could offer.

Some evidence supports the theory that southern Sweden was densely populated during the Bronze Age, as remains of large trading communities from this period have been found.

During the 9th and 10th century, the Viking culture flourished in Sweden, with trade, raiding and colonisation primarily going eastward, to the Baltic states, Russia and the Black Sea.

In the 1389, the three countries of Norway, Denmark and Sweden were united under a single monarch. The Kalmar Union was entered into as a personal, not a political union, and during the 15th century, Sweden resisted attempts to centralise rule under the Danish king, even to the point of armed rebellion. Sweden subsequently broke away in 1523, when Gustav Eriksson Vasa, later known as Gustav I of Sweden re-established separation of the Swedish Crown from the union.

The 17th century saw Sweden emerge as one of the great powers in Europe, due to successful participation, initiated by King Gustavus Adolphus, in the Thirty Years' War. This position would crumble in the the 18th century when Russia took the reins of northern Europe in the Great Northern War, and eventually in 1809, splitting off the eastern half of Sweden, thereby creating Finland as a Russian Grand Duchy.

Recent Swedish history has been peaceful, the last war being the Campaign against Norway[?] 1814 establishing a Sweden-dominated personal union with Norway. The union was peacefully dissolved in 1905, despite some sabre-rattling. Sweden remained neutral during World War I and World War II.

The first ceremony to award the Nobel Prize was held at the Old Royal Academy of Music in Stockholm in 1901; beginning in 1902, the prizes have been formally awarded by the King of Sweden.

Politics Main articles: Politics of Sweden

Sweden has been a monarchy for almost a millennium with supply controlled by the parliament (the taxed peasantry constituting one of four chambers until 1866), and legislative power shared between the King and the Parliament (until 1975). Executive power was shared between the King and a noble Privy Council until 1680, followed by the King's autocratic rule initiated by the common estates of the Parliament. As a reaction to the failed Great Northern War Parliamentarism was introduced in 1719, followed by three different flavours of Constitutional Monarchy in 1772, 1789 and 1809, the latter granting several civil liberties.

Parliamentarism was re-introduced in 1917 as king Gustaf V, after decades of struggle, accepted appointing Cabinets supported by majorities in the Parliament, followed by common and equal suffrage enacted 1918-21. Parliamentarism was upheld by his successor Gustav VI Adolf until a new constitution in 1975 abolished the monarch's political power. The monarch remains as the formal, but merely a symbolic, head of state with mainly ceremonial duties.

Social Democracy has played a dominant political role since 1917, after Reformists had confirmed their strength and the Revolutionaries left the party. Social Democratic influence over society and government is often described as Hegemony. After 1932 the Cabinets have been led and dominated by the Social Democrats except for: a few summer months 1936; six years 1976-1982; and three years 1991-1994.

Constitutionally, the 349-member, unicameral Parliament or Riksdag holds supreme authority in Sweden. It may alter the constitution and its acts are not subject to judicial review. Legislation may be initiated by the Cabinet or by members of Parliament. Members are elected on the basis of proportional representation for a four-year term.

The Constitution can be altered by the Riksdag, which requires qualified majority[?] and confirmation after the following general elections.

The judicial system is divided between courts with regular civil and criminal jurisdiction and special courts with responsibility for litigation between the public and Government or Municipal authorities. Swedish law is codified and its court system consists of local courts, regional appellate courts, and a Supreme Court.

Counties Main article: Counties of Sweden

Sweden is divided into 21 counties or län. In each county there is a County Administrative Board or länsstyrelse which is appointed by the Government. In each county there is also a separate County Council or landsting, which is the municipal representation appointed by the county electorate. Each county further divides into a number of municipalities or kommuner, making a total of 289 municipalities, in 2002. There are also older historical divisions of the Swedish Realm, primarily into provinces and lands.

Geography Main article: Geography of Sweden

Sweden enjoys a mostly temperate climate despite its northern latitude, mainly due to the Gulf stream. In the south of Sweden leaf-bearing trees are prolific, in the north ferns and hardy birches dominate the landscape. In the mountains of northern Sweden a sub-arctic climate predominates. In the part of the country north of the Arctic Circle the sun never sets during the summer, and in the winter night is unending.

East of Sweden is the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Bothnia, providing a long coastline, and yet further mellowing the climate. To the west are the Scandinavian mountain chain, a range that separates Sweden from Norway.

The southern part of the country is chiefly agricultural, with forests covering an increasing percentage of the land the further north one goes. Population density is also higher in southern Sweden, with centers being in the valley of lake Mälaren and the Öresund region.

Gotland and Öland are the two largest Islands of Sweden.

Economy Main article: Economy of Sweden

Aided by peace and neutrality for the whole 20th century, Sweden has achieved an enviable standard of living under a mixed system of high-tech capitalism and extensive welfare benefits. It has a modern distribution system, excellent internal and external communications, and a skilled labour force. Timber, hydropower, and iron ore constitute the resource base of an economy heavily oriented toward foreign trade.

Privately-owned firms account for about 90% of industrial output, of which the engineering sector accounts for 50% of output and exports. Agriculture accounts for only 2% of GDP and 2% of the jobs. The government's commitment to fiscal discipline resulted in a substantial budgetary surplus in 2001, which was cut by more than half in 2002, due to the global economic slowdown, revenue declines, and spending increases. The Swedish Riksbank is focusing on price stability with its inflation target of 2%. Growth should pick up to 2.3% in 2003, assuming a moderate global recovery.

The Communications and Transportation systems of Sweden are important components of the infrastructure.

Demographics Main article: Demographics of Sweden

Ethnicity

Beside the Swedes, a small indigenous population of Saami (also known as "Lapps") live in the northernmost part of the country. Sweden-Finns, partly indigenous, is the largest ethnic minority.

Language

Even though Sweden (similar to the United States) has no official language, Swedish dominates totally. The indigenous Finno-Ugric languages have well into the 1960s been repressed.

Since 1999 Sweden has five officially recognized minority languages[?]: Saami, Meänkieli-Finnish, Standard-Finnish, Romani chib and Jiddisch.

Emigration

In the 19th century Sweden had a yearly population growth peaking at 12‰, i.e. a doubling in less than 60 years, compared to 1‰ today (migration excluded). This led, before the Industrial Revolution as it was, to a pauperization of the rural population, for each generation inheriting smaller and smaller shares. Following years of crop failures in the 1840s and 1860s, the U.S. Homestead Act of 1862, and to a lesser extent religious prosecution, emigration started and grew. Between 1850 and 1930 1,050,000 Swedes emigrated (re-migration excluded), chiefly to USA and to Denmark. If they hadn't left, Sweden's population would have been about 2,000,000 higher today, given that famine and civil war hadn't been the outcome of their staying. (After 1929 the net-migration has been directed towards Sweden.)

Immigration

Today (2001) 11,5% of the population are immigrants according to official statistics, i.e. born in another country. This is a comparably high figure. The government and the population has not, as in traditional immigration countries such as Australia or USA, had centuries of immigration to adapt laws and mindset to the situation.

Immigration increased markedly with World War II. Soon 70,000 children were evacuated from Finland, of which 15,000 remained in Sweden. Until 1973 work-force immigration dominated, peaking in the late 1960s. The largest immigrant groups are Sweden-Finns and peoples from the former Yugoslavia representing both work-force immigration and war refugees. (See: Table at Demographics of Sweden.) Migration triggered by political crises include refugee groups of Persians, Kurds, Palestinians, Vietnamese, Chileans and Hungarians.

Religion

The majority of the population belongs to the Church of Sweden (recently separated from the state), which is Lutheran (Christian). Some of the Saami practise Animism. Due to refugee immigration, there are also a number of Muslims in Sweden (see: Muslims in Europe).

Culture Main article: Culture of Sweden

Swedish 20th century culture is noted by pioneering works in the early days of cinema, with Mauritz Stiller[?] and Victor Sjöström[?]. Later on, moguls like Ingmar Bergman and actresses such as Greta Garbo, Ingrid Bergman and Anita Ekberg[?] made careers abroad.

Swedish music is in many minds connected with ABBA, although more recently indie bands like Soundtrack of our lives[?] and The Hives have started achieving international fame.

Swedish literature is also vibrant and active, Sweden ranking third in the list of countries with most Nobel Prize laureates in literature.

Holidays Main article: Holidays in Sweden

The Swedish holiday calendar consists mainly of Christian holidays. Many of these are however a continuation of pre-chritian customs, such as Midsummer and Walpurgis Night. Apart from official holidays and a few de facto holidays there are also official flag day observances and minor observances in the namesday calendar.

DateEnglish NameLocal NameRemarks
January 1New Year's Day Nyårsdagen 
January 6Epiphany Trettondagen 
Moveable FridayGood Friday LångfredagThe Friday before Easter Sunday
Moveable SundayEaster Sunday Påskdagen 
Moveable MondayEaster Monday Annandag påskThe day after Easter Sunday
May 1May Day Första majSee also Walpurgis Night
Moveable ThursdayAscension DayKristi himmelsfärdsdag40 days after Easter
Moveable SundayPentecost Pingstdagen50 days after Easter
Moveable MondayWhitmonday Annandag Pingst51 days after Easter
Third Friday of JuneMidsummer Eve MidsommaraftonNon official - however a de facto full holiday
Third Saturday of JuneMidsummer Day Midsommardagen 
First Saturday of NovemberAll Saints Day Alla helgons dagMoved from November 1
December 24Christmas Eve JulaftonNon official - however a de facto full holiday
December 25 Christmas Day Juldagen 
December 26Boxing DayAnnandag jul 
December 31New Year's Eve NyårsaftonNon official - however a de facto full holiday
All Sundays  Official holidays - names follow the Liturgical year

Miscellaneous topics

References

External links


European Union:
Austria  |  Belgium  |  Denmark  |  Finland  |  France  |  Germany  |  Greece  |  Ireland
Italy  |  Luxembourg  |  Netherlands  |  Portugal  |  Spain  |  Sweden  |  United Kingdom

Countries acceding to membership on May 1, 2004:
Cyprus  |  Czech Republic  |  Estonia  |  Hungary  |  Latvia  |  Lithuania  |  Malta  |  Poland  |  Slovakia  |  Slovenia


Countries of the world  |  Europe



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