The Kalmar Union (which included Sweden, Denmark and Norway) led to frequent conflicts between Denmark and Sweden. During the 16th century, Sweden brought this union to an end and regained its independence. It conquered coastal territory along the Baltic Sea, including Finland and Estonia. In the 18th century however, it lost these territories to Russia.
Old town, Stockholm © www.imagebank.sweden.se
- 1809 Charles XIII reached a peace agreement with Russia, Denmark and France. Implementing a pro-Napoleonic policy, he chose Bernadotte as his crown prince. This Marshall of Napoleon encouraged the economic, political and cultural expansion of Sweden.
- 1814 Sweden adopts a policy of neutrality, its last military adventure being its personal union with Norway.
- 1905 Sweden and Norway separate and become independent.
- 1911 Adoption of universal suffrage for men. This is extended to women in 1921.
- 1914-1918 / 1939-1945 Sweden remains neutral during both world wars.
- 1932 The Social Democrats come to power, a position they will continue to hold for several decades, combining economic intervention and the Welfare State in a system which becomes known as the “Swedish model”.
- 1949 Sweden joins the Council of Europe, but refuses to join NATO.
- 1973 Death of Gustav VI Adolf. His grandson, Carl XVI Gustav, becomes the new monarch.
- 1977 Beginning of the crisis focused around the “Swedish model”: austerity measures are adopted which lead to a partial dismantling of the Welfare State.
- 1986 Assassination of Prime Minister Olof Palme.
- 1995 Sweden joins the European Union.
- 2002 The parliamentary elections see the Social Democrats and their Prime Minister Göran Persson being returned to office.
- 2003 Four days after the assassination of the Foreign Affairs Minister Anna Lindh, the Swedes vote against the adoption of the single currency in a referendum.
- 2006 The coalition of the center-right parties wins the elections. Fredrick Reinfeldt becomes prime minister.
- 2010 Fredrick Reinfeldt stays as prime minister, but his governments loses its majority.
Sweden’s capital, Stockholm, is partly built on an archipelago in the Baltic Sea, composed of 24,000 islands. The old town, which has retained its narrow streets and medieval houses, is located on Staden mellan Broarna island. Nicknamed the “city between the bridges”, this island was the first to be inhabited among the 14 islands now covered by the capital. A major industrial port, Stockholm is also a leading cultural center. It is home to many museums, including the Skansen museum, the world’s leading open-air museum, which includes reconstructed traditional Swedish houses. The town also boasts a large number of monuments, including the royal palace, the Storkyrkan cathedral where the Swedish kings were crowned, and the modern city hall where the Nobel prizes are awarded. Stockholm became the European Capital of Culture for 1998.
Alfred Nobel was born in Stockholm in 1833. He devoted his life to science at an early age, and in 1867 he obtained a patent for the invention of dynamite, a powerful explosive made from nitro-glycerine and clay. This invention was by far his most important, but it is easy to forget that more than 350 patents were lodged by the famous Swedish chemist throughout his career. When he died in 1896, Alfred Nobel left practically nothing to his direct heirs. In accordance with his last wishes, his heritage was used to create a foundation given the task of rewarding people who have served the various causes of humanity. Each year on December 10th (the anniversary of Nobel’s death), Nobel Prizes are awarded in five different categories, these being physics, chemistry, medicine or physiology, literature and peace. Originally worth 150,000 krona in 1901, the Nobel Prize has been increased regularly. In 2003 it stood at 10 million Swedish krona (approximately €1.1 million)
Alfred Nobel © www.imagebank.sweden.se
Every year during December,Sweden celebrates the “Saint Lucia celebration”. The legend of Lucia, the holy martyr of Syracuse, probably dates back to the 4th century. According to the legend, Lucia had helped Christians persecuted by the Romans to survive by bringing them food in their hiding places. To light her way, she wore a crown of candles on her head. Having betrayed the Romans, she was condemned to be burned alive, but as the flames could not harm her, she was finally killed with a sword on December 13, 304. The date of this celebration, which was introduced in Sweden during the 19th century, also has another meaning for the Swedes. According to the Julian calendar (the calendar used in Europe until 1582), this is also the shortest day and therefore theoretically the darkest day of the year. Consequently, it can be said that the Swedes are actually celebrating the return of the light and the origin of the word: “Lucia” comes from the Latin word “lux” which means light. In Sweden, the day of Saint Lucia is celebrated throughout the country. Dressed in white, with a crown of candles on her head, the Lady of Light brings saffron buns (“lussekatter”) and light to each Swedish home.