Swedish History

They have known war. They have known peace. They have known prosperity. They have known economic hardship. Such is the history of Sweden and its people.

The beginning of the Swedish state can be traced back to around 1000 A.D. when Olof Skotkonung was recognized as the country's first Christian king. This would mark the beginning of the end of the Vikings' reign over the country as Christianity gained more prominence. By the mid-to-late 1100s, all vestiges of pagan worship had been purged from Sweden. The Swedes also expanded their territory, as well as the influence of Christianity, during the 12th and 13th Centuries as they launched a series of crusades into modern-day Finland.

But establishing a true, united Sweden was a long and sometimes violent process marred by political feuds. In 1397, Danish Queen Margrete I formed the Union of Kalmar, which brought Sweden, Denmark and Norway under a singular rule. However, the union proved to be an imperfect one. There was constant tension and fighting between the Swedes and the Danes, which came to a head in 1520 when Christian II of Denmark invaded Sweden. He killed regent Sten Sture the Younger, then executed 82 of his followers - after he had promised to spare them - in what is known as the "Stockholm Bloodbath." This touched off a massive rebellion among the Swedes and led to Sweden leaving the Union of Kalmar in 1523. On June 6th of that year, Gustav Ericsson Vasa was crowned king. Thus began the Vasa Dynasty and the creation of a true Swedish nation-state. It also brought with it a simplified and fairer tax system for farmers.

The following centuries saw Sweden become Europe's main supplier of resources like iron, copper, timber and fur. The 19th Century saw the rise of industrialization and urbanization. The Swedish economy grew, as did its middle class.

Sweden remained neutral during both World Wars I and II. Without having to rebuild their country as many other European nations did, the ruling Social Democrats could focus on the creation of a welfare state. With a population between 7 and 8 million, the folkhemmet as it was called proved highly successful. Swedes enjoyed a high standard of living with little to no poverty in the years following the Second World War.

By the 1970s, however, Sweden's economy went into decline. The economic malaise was compounded in 1986 by an event that shocked Swedish society. The murder of Prime Minister Olof Palme while on his way home from a cinema.

The 1990s saw more economic unrest with the devaluation of the krona, companies going bankrupt and high unemployment. The government implemented budget cuts and tax increases in an attempt to stabilize the economy. In 1995, Sweden joined the European Union in the hope that would help turn around its economic situation. Since then, the country's economic and unemployment numbers have seen improvement, though Swedish voters decided not to adopt the euro as the country's official currency.


© Baltic21.org 2013, All Rights Reserved