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Kingdom of Sweden
Konungariket Sverige

CAPITAL: Stockholm

FLAG: The national flag, dating from 1569 and employing a blue and gold motif used as early as the mid-14th century, consists of a yellow cross with extended right horizontal on a blue field.

ANTHEM: Du gamla, du fria, du fjallhöga nord (O Glorious Old Mountain-Crowned Land of the North).

MONETARY UNIT: The krona (Kr) is a paper currency of 100 öre. There are coins of 50 öre and 1, 2, 5, and 10 kronor, and notes of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500, and 1,000 kronor. Kr1 = $0.13661 (or $1 = Kr7.32) as of 2005.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is the legal standard, but some old local measures are still in use, notably the Swedish mile (10 kilometers).

HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Epiphany, 6 January; Labor Day, 1 May; Midsummer Day, Saturday nearest 24 June; All Saints' Day, 5 November; Christmas, 2526 December. Movable religious holidays include Good Friday, Easter Monday, Ascension, and Whitmonday.

TIME: 1 pm = noon GMT.


Fourth in size among the countries of Europe, Sweden is the largest of the Scandinavian countries, with about 15% of its total area situated north of the Arctic Circle. Extreme length ns is 1,574 km (978 mi) and greatest breadth ew is 499 km (310 mi). Sweden has a total area of 449,964 sq km (173,732 sq mi): land area, 410,934 sq km (158,663 sq mi); water area, 39,030 sq km (15,070 sq mi), including some 96,000 lakes. Comparatively, the area occupied by Sweden is slightly larger than the state of California. Sweden is bounded on the n and ne by Finland, on the e by the Gulf of Bothnia, on the se by the Baltic Sea, on the sw by the Öresund, the Kattegat, and the Skagarrak, and on the w by Norway, with a total boundary length of 5,423 km (3,370 mi), of which 3,218 km (2000 mi) is coastline. The two largest Swedish islands in the Baltic Sea are Gotland and Öland. Sweden's capital city, Stockholm, is located on the southeast Baltic Sea coast.


Northern Sweden (Norrland) slopes from the Kjölen Mountains along the Norwegian frontier (with the high point at Kebnekaise, 2,111 m/6,926 ft) to the coast of the Gulf of Bothnia. The many riversnotably the Göta, the Dal, the Ångerman, the Ume, and the Luleflow generally toward the southeast and have incised the plateau surface; waterfalls abound. Central Sweden, consisting of a down-faulted lowland, has several large lakes, of which Vänern (5,584 sq km/2,156 sq mi) is the largest in Europe outside the former USSR. To the south of the lake belt rises the upland of Smaland and its small but fertile appendage, Skane. The low-lands were once submerged and so acquired a cover of fertile, silty soils. Much of Sweden is composed of ancient rock; most ice erosion has resulted in generally poor sandy or stony soils. The best, most lime-rich soils are found in Skane, and this southernmost district is the leading agricultural region; it resembles Denmark in its physical endowments and development.


Because of maritime influences, particularly the warm North Atlantic Drift and the prevailing westerly airstreams, Sweden has higher temperatures than its northerly latitude would suggest. Stockholm averages -3°c (26°f) in February and 18°c (64°f) in July. As would be expected from its latitudinal extent, there is a wide divergence of climate between northern and southern Sweden: the north has a winter of more than seven months and a summer of less than three, while Skane in the south has a winter of about two months and a summer of more than four. The increasing shortness of summer northward is partly compensated for by comparatively high summer temperatures, the greater length of day, and the infrequency of summer cloud; the considerable cloud cover in winter reduces heat loss by radiation.

Annual rainfall averages 61 cm (24 in) and is heaviest in the southwest and along the frontier between Norrland and Norway; the average rainfall for Lapland is about 30 cm (12 in) a year. The maximum rainfall occurs in late summer, and the minimum in early spring. There is considerable snowfall, and in the north snow remains on the ground for about half the year. Ice conditions in the surrounding seas, especially the Gulf of Bothnia, often are severe in winter and seriously interfere with navigation.


Vegetation ranges from Alpine-Arctic types in the north and upland areas to coniferous forests in the central regions and deciduous trees in the south. Common trees include birch, aspen, beech elm, oak, and Norway spruce. Black cock, woodcock, duck, partridge, swan, and many other varieties of birds are abundant. Fish and insects are plentiful. As of 2002, there were at least 60 species of mammals, 259 species of birds, and over 1,750 species of plants throughout the country.


Sweden's relatively slow population growth and an effective conservation movement have helped preserve the nation's extensive forest resources. By the end of 1985 there were 19 national parks covering 618,070 hectares (1,527,276 acres), 1,215 nature reserves of 870,748 hectares (2,151,653 acres), and 2,016 other protected landscape areas of 540,064 hectares (1,334,520 acres). As of 2003, protected areas accounted for 9.1% of Sweden's total land area, including 51 Ramsar wetland sites. Principal responsibility for the environment is vested in the National Environmental Protection Agency.

In 2000, the total of carbon dioxide emissions was at 46.9 million metric tons. Other pollutants include sulphur air, nitrogen compounds, oil, VOCs (volatile organic compounds), radon, and methane. The pollution of the nation's water supply is also a significant problem. Factory effluents represent a threat to water quality, and airborne sulfur pollutants have so acidified more than 16,000 lakes that fish can no longer breed in them. Sweden has 171 cu km of renewable water resources with 9% of annual withdrawals used for farming and 55% used for industrial purposes.

One of the most controversial environmental questions was put to rest by a March 1980 referendum in which a small plurality of the electorate (39.3%) supported expansion of nuclear power to no more than 12 reactors by the mid-1980s, but with provisions for the nationalization of nuclear energy, for energy conservation, and for the phaseout of nuclear power within an estimated 2025 years. As of 2005, there were still 10 nuclear power reactors providing nearly half of the nation's electricity.

According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species included 5 types of mammals, 9 species of birds, 6 species of fish, 1 type of mollusk, 12 species of other invertebrates, and 3 species of plants. Threatened species include the blue ground beetle and cerambyx longhorn. Protected fauna include the wild reindeer, golden eagle, and crane.


The population of Sweden in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 9,029,000, which placed it at number 84 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 17% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 18% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 98 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 200510 was expected to be 0.1%, a rate the government viewed as satisfactory. The projected population for the year 2025 was 9,936,000. The overall population density was 20 per sq km (52 per sq mi), but the southern two-fifths of the country are more densely populated, with approximately 80% of the population living there.

The UN estimated that 84% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 0.18%. The capital city, Stockholm, had a population of 1,697,000 in that year. Göteborg had a metropolitan population of 829,000. Other large cities (and their estimated populations) include Malmö (267,171), Uppsala (130,000), Västerås (129,987), Örebro (95,354), and Norrköping (83,000).


In the period 18651930, nearly 1,400,000 Swedes, or about one-fifth of the country's population, emigrated; over 80% went to the United States, and about 15% to other Nordic countries. The exodus ended by the 1930s, when resource development in Sweden started to keep pace with the population growth. In the 1960s there was a flood of immigrationespecially by Finnsthat increased the number of aliens in Sweden from 190,621 to 411,280. The number remained steady in the 1970s but increased, though at a slower rate, in the 1980s.

As of 1999, 3,729 people had been evacuated from Macedonia to Sweden under the UNHCR/IOM Humanitarian Evacuation Programme. Evacuees, as well as Kosovars who had already sought asylum but whose cases were still pending, were granted temporary protection for an 11-month period, renewable for a maximum of four years. During 2004, 73,408 refugees were hosted in Sweden. Main countries of origin for refugees included Iraq (23,918), Bosnia and Herzegovina (25,836), Serbia and Montenegro (20,890), and Iran (5,181). Asylum applications came from 25 countries of origin, the largest numbers from Serbia and Montenegro, and Iraq. The net migration rate in 2005 was an estimated 1.67 migrants per 1,000 population. Worker remittances in 2002 were $190 million.


The Swedes are primarily Scandinavians of Germanic origin. There are about 17,000 to 20,000 Sami (Lapps) within the country. The remaining 12% of the population is comprised of foreign-born or first-generation immigrants, including Finns in the north, Danes, Iraqis, Iranians, Norwegians, Greeks, and Turks.


Swedish is a national language. In addition to the letters of the English language, it has å, ä, and ö. Swedish is closely related to Norwegian and Danish. Many Swedes speak English and German, and many more understand these languages. The Sami speak their own language. There is also a spread of Finnish-speaking people from across the frontier.


For hundreds of years, the Church of Sweden, an Evangelical Lutheran church, represented the religion of state. However, in 2000, the Church and government placed into effect a formal separation of church and state, with a stipulation that the Church of Sweden will continue to receive a certain degree of state support. This new agreement triggered a decline in membership for this church. According to recent estimates, about 79.6% of the population belong to the Church of Sweden, down from over 85% in 2000. Protestant groups other than the Church of Sweden have about 400,000 people. Roman Catholics constitute less than 1% of the populace, with about 140,000 members. About 100,000 people are members of Christian Orthodox churches, including Greek, Serbian, Syrian, Romanian, and Macedonian. The number of Muslims is at about 350,000, with about 100,000 active practitioners primarily of the Sunni and Shia branches. There are also about 20,000 Jews (Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform), with about half being active. Buddhists and Hindus number around 3,000 to 4,000 each. It is estimated that about 1520% of the adult population are atheists. Small numbers of people are represented by groups such as the Church of Scientology, Hare Krishnas, Opus Dei, and the Unification Church.

The constitution provides for freedom of religion. Since the separation of church and state, all religions are eligible for financial support from the government through the "church tax." Individuals may now designate which organization they wish to receive their contribution, or they may receive a tax reduction. The Commission for State Grants to Religious Communities is the government body that oversees religious funding, in cooperation with the Swedish Free Church Council.

The Muslim and Jewish communities have protested government laws which they believe interfere with religious practice. For instance, a 1930 law requires the use of anesthesia before slaughter of animals in order to minimize suffering. This practice interferes with kosher. A 2001 law requires that mohels (who perform circumcisions according to Jewish customs) must be certified by the National Board of Health and the procedure must be completed in the presence of a medical doctor or an anesthesia nurse. Some Jews (and Muslims) claim that this interferes with their religious ceremony; as of 2005, the law was scheduled for review.


As of 2002, the total length of highways was 213,237 km (132,633 mi), of which about 167,604 km (104,250 mi) were paved, including 1,514 km (942 mi) of expressways. As of 2003, there were 4,078,000 passenger cars and 435,561 commercial vehicles. In 1967, Sweden changed from left-to right-hand traffic. As of 2004, Sweden's 11,481 km (7,141 mi) railroad system was operated by the state-owned Statens Järnvagar. Of that total, 9,400 km (5,847 mi) of the track was electrified. All tracks are standard gauge.

Since the 1960s, the number of ships in the merchant navy has decreased because of competition from low-cost shipping nations and, more recently, the slump in world trade. Sweden has an increasing number of special-purpose vessels, such as fruit tramps, ore carriers, and oil tankers. Most of the larger vessels, representing the majority of Sweden's commercial tonnage, are engaged in traffic that never touches home ports, and less than half of Swedish foreign trade is carried in Swedish ships. Göteborg, Stockholm, and Malmö, the three largest ports, and a number of smaller ports are well-equipped to handle large oceangoing vessels. In 2005, the Swedish merchant fleet consisted of 205 ships of 1,000 GRT or more, with a combined capacity of 2,702,763 GRT. Canals in central Sweden have opened the lakes to seagoing craft; inland waterways add up to 2,052 km (1,275 mi), navigable by small steamers and barges.

In 2004 there were an estimated 254 airports. As of 2005, a total of 155 had paved runways, and there were also two heliports. Arlanda international airport at Stockholm received its first jet aircraft in 1960; other principal airports are Sturup at Malmö and Landvetter at Göteborg. The Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS) is operated jointly by Sweden, Denmark, and Norway, each of which owns a 50% share of the company operating in its own territory; the other half in Sweden is owned by private investors. Linjeflyg, a subsidiary of SAS, operates a domestic service to most of the larger cities and resorts. In 2003, about 11.586 million passengers were carried on scheduled domestic and international flights.


Sweden and the Swedes are first referred to in written records by the Roman historian Tacitus, who, in his Germania (ad 98), mentions the Suiones, a people "mighty in ships and arms." These people, also referred to as Svear, conquered their southern neighbors, the Gotar, merged with them, and extended their dominion over most of what is now central and southern Sweden. In the 9th and 10th centuries when Vikings from the Norwegian homeland traveled west to Iceland, Greenland and farther afield to Newfoundland, Vikings from eastern Sweden raided areas southeastward across Russia to Constantinople. Archeologists and historians hold that the descendants of one of their chieftains, Rurik, founded the Kievan Russian state. Some other settled regions and place-names in various parts of Europe also show Swedish influence through rune-stones found across Eastern Europe.

In the Viking era, the Swedish kingdom took shape but was not very centralized. Political power became more centralized with the advent of Christianity, which came gradually between the 9th and 11th centuries. During the 12th century, the Swedish kingdom consolidated internally and under the guise of the crusades began to expand into the Baltic, incorporating Finland, between 1150 and 1300. Among the institutions established in Sweden during the 12th and 13th centuries were Latin education, new modes and styles of architecture and literature, town life, and a more centralized monarchy with new standards in royal administrationall with significant economic, legal, and social implications.

Norway and Sweden were united in 1319 under the infant king Magnus VII, but Waldemar IV, King of Denmark, regained Skåne, the southern part of Sweden, and all the Scandinavian countries were united in the Kalmar Union under his daughter Margaret (Margrethe) in 1397. For over a century, Sweden resisted Danish rule, and the union was marked by internal tensions.

In 1523, following a war with Denmark whose notable feature was the Stortorget (Great Square) massacre in Stockholm where hundreds of Swedish nobles were executed, the Swedes elected Gustavus Vasa (Gustaf I) to the Swedish throne. A great king and the founder of modern Sweden, Gustavus made Lutheranism the state religion, established a hereditary monarchy, and organized a national army and navy. His successors incorporated Estonia and other areas in Eastern Europe. The growth of nationalism, the decline of the Hanseatic League's control of Baltic trade, and Protestantism contributed to the rise of Sweden in the following century.

Another great king and one of the world's outstanding military geniuses, Gustavus Adolphus (Gustaf II Adolf, r.161132), is generally regarded as the creator of the first modern army. He defeated Poland and conquered the rest of Livonia, and by winning a war with Russia acquired Ingermanland and Karelia. In the period of the Thirty Years' War (161848), Sweden was the foremost Protestant power on the Continent, and for the following half century the Baltic Sea became a Swedish lake. Although the king was killed at Lützen in 1632, his policies were carried on during the reign of his daughter Christina by the prime minister, Axel Oxenstierna. By terms of the Peace of Westphalia (1648) Sweden gained Pomerania and the archbishopric of Bremen, part of the Holy Roman Empire. Swedish expansionism resulted, in 1658, in the recapture of the southern Swedish provinces that Denmark had retained since the early 16th century. Renewed wars extended the Swedish frontier to the west coast while reducing Danish control over trade by taking away the eastern shore of the Öresund.

Under young Charles XII (r.16971718), Sweden fought the Great Northern War (17001721) against a coalition of Denmark, Poland, Saxony, and Russia. Sweden at first was militarily successful, but after a crushing defeat by Russian forces under Peter the Great (Peter I) in 1709 at the Battle of Poltava, the nation lost territories to Russia, Prussia, and Hannover. Thereafter Sweden was a second-rate power. Throughout the 18th century there was internal dissension between those that favored increased political liberties and constitutionally shared political power and those who favored monarchical absolutism. In 1770, a power struggle between the nobility and the commoner estates, including the clergy, burghers and farmers, ended when Gustav III carried out a bloodless coup and restored absolutism. Gustavus III (r.177192), a poet, playwright, and patron of the arts and sciences, and founder of the Swedish Academy, was eventually assassinated by a group of disgruntled nobles.

Sweden entered the Napoleonic Wars in 1805, allying itself with Great Britain, Austria, and Russia against France. Russia switched sides in 1807, however, and the ensuing Russo-Swedish conflict (18089) resulted in the loss of Finland. King Gustavus IV was then overthrown by the army, and a more democratic constitution was adopted. In 1810, one of Napoleon's marshals, a Frenchman from Pau named Jean Baptiste Jules Bernadotte, was invited to become the heir to the Swedish throne. Three years later, he brought his adopted country once again over to the side of the allies against Napoleon in the last full-scale war fought by Sweden. His reward for being on the winning side of the Napoleonic wars was to wrest a reluctant Norway from Danish control. After a show of Swedish force, Norway was forced into political union with Sweden that lasted until 1905 when the union was largely peacefully dissolved.

Bernadotte assumed the name Charles John (Carl Johan) and succeeded to the Swedish throne in 1818 as Charles XIV John. The Bernadotte dynasty, which has reigned successively since 1818, gradually relinquished virtually all of its powers, which were assumed by the Riksdag, Sweden's parliament. Sweden has become one of the most progressive countries in the world. Industry was developed, the cooperative movement began to play an important part in the economy, and the Social Democratic Labor Party gained a dominant position in political life.

Carl XVI Gustaf has been king since the death of his grandfather, Gustav VI Adolf, in 1973. In September 1976, a coalition of three non-Socialist parties won a majority in parliamentary elections, ending 44 years of almost uninterrupted Social Democratic rule that had established a modern welfare state. The country's economic situation worsened, however, and the Social Democrats were returned to power in the elections of September 1982. Prime Minister Olof Palme, leader of the Social Democratic Party since 1969, was assassinated in February 1986. In the ensuing years, investigators have been unable to establish a motive for the killing or to find the assassin.

Sweden and Neutrality

Sweden remained neutral in both world wars; during World War II, however, Sweden had difficulty maintaining neutrality as its Nordic neighbors were drawn into the conflict. Sweden served as a haven for refugees from the Nazis, allowed the Danish resistance movement to operate on its soil, and sent volunteers to assist Finland's fight against the Russians. On the other hand, Sweden was compelled to comply with German demands to transport its troops through Sweden to and from Nazi-occupied Norway. After the war, Sweden did not join NATO, as did its Scandinavian neighbors Norway and Denmark, but it did become a member of the UN in 1946 and participated in some of the European Recovery Program benefits. In 1953, Sweden joined with Denmark, Norway, Iceland, and, later, Finland to form the Nordic Council, and was instrumental in creating EFTA in 1960. Subsequently Sweden declined an invitation to join the EEC with Denmark, Ireland, and the United Kingdom; a free-trade agreement with the EEC was signed 22 July 1972. Sweden's post-WWII foreign policy has been termed "active neutrality." Neutral Sweden tried to mediate in the Cold War confrontation between the Western and Soviet blocs and sought a major role in development assistance toward newly independent countries in the Third World.

Sweden's traditional policy of neutrality was strained in late October 1981 when a Soviet submarine ran aground inside a restricted military zone near the Swedish naval base at Karlskrona. The Swedish government protested this "flagrant violation of territorial rights" and produced reasons for believing that the submarine had been carrying nuclear weapons. Swedish naval vessels raised the damaged submarine and permitted it to return to the Soviet fleet in early November. In 1984, a Swedish military report stated that at least 10 "alien" submarines had been detected in Swedish waters.

The environment and nuclear energy were major political issues in the 1980s. In the 1990s and into the new century, the major concerns have been conflicts over immigration policies, the economy, and Sweden's relationship to the European Communities. Sweden's economic crisis led to large-scale public spending cuts by a center-right government. In 1991, Sweden applied for membership in the EC against a background of considerable opposition. In May 1993, the Riksdag altered Sweden's long-standing foreign policy of neutrality. In the future, neutrality would only be followed in time of war. The Riksdag also opened up the possibility of Sweden's participation in defense alliances, which remains a hotly debated issue in Sweden.

In 1994, Swedes voted to join the EU and the country officially became a member on 1 January 1995. Sweden did not join the 11 EU countries participating in the launch of the new European currency, the euro, on 1 January 1999. Public opinion over the succeeding years softened on the issue of euro membership, however, and a referendum on joining the monetary union was held on 14 September 2003. The ruling Social Democratic Party supported euro membership, but its coalition partners in 2003, the ex-communist Left Party and the Greens, were strongly opposed, as those parties feared Sweden would lose not only its currency, but its status as an advanced welfare state. On 10 September, Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh was stabbed in a Stockholm department store by an assailant unknown to her; she died the next day. Lindh was one of the primary spokespersons for the "yes" campaign for the euro, and was one of the country's best-loved politicians; many thought she could have become prime minister. The referendum was defeated by a margin of 56.1% to 41.8% with a turnout of 81.2%.

Following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Sweden pledged support for US-led retaliation against terrorists. At the same time, Sweden relaxed further its policy of neutrality, and some have speculated that it will eventually join NATO. Sweden since 1992 has been a member of NATO's "Partnership for Peace" program, and in 1999, the first Swedish troops were sent to Kosovo in the Balkans. In February 2002, Prime Minister Göran Persson's government made the decision for Sweden to enter into military alliances and defensive pacts with other nations. As of 2005, Swedish troops were also serving in Liberia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Afghanistan. Sweden at the turn of the 21st century was concerned with issues of international terrorism and organized transnational crime, such as drug smuggling and trafficking in human beings.

Sweden pledged itself to give 1% of its GNP to development assistance for poor countries, effective 2006. Sweden will give priority to four areas: conflict prevention measures, the fight against drugs, efforts to combat HIV/AIDS, and sexual and reproductive health and rights.


Sweden developed as a constitutional monarchy under the constitution of 1809, which remained in effect until 1 January 1975, when a new instrument of government replaced it. Legislative authority is vested in the parliament (Riksdag). The monarch ceded involvement in power-brokering among the parties as early as 1917 when the Liberals and Social Democrats entered into a coalition. Today, the monarch performs only ceremonial duties as the official head of state; the monarch's last political duty, regular participation in cabinet meetings, was taken away under the most recent constitution. The king must belong to the Lutheran Church; the throne was hereditary only for male descendants until 1980, when female descendants were granted the right to the throne.

The Riksdag was bicameral until 1971, when a unicameral body of 350 members serving three-year terms was established; the 1975 constitution provided for 349 members, and the parliamentary term was lengthened to four years in 1994. All members of the Riksdag are directly elected by universal suffrage at age 18. Voter turnout has traditionally been very high in Sweden, though in the 2002 election turnout dipped to 80.1% compared with turnout over 86% for the previous two elections. Foreign nationals may vote in regional and municipal elections. Elections at all levels are simultaneous and are held on the third Sunday of September every fourth year. The parties' share of the national vote is directly translated into seats in Riksdag. Interim national elections may be called by the government between regular elections, but the mandate of the interim election is valid only for the remaining portion of the regular four-year parliamentary term of office.

In Sweden's parliamentary system, executive power lies with the government, or cabinet, that is formed by the majority party in parliament or by a coalition of parties. Sweden has also functioned with a minority government in which the largest party does not enjoy a majority in parliament and must form ad-hoc coalitions with other parties in the Riksdag. The cabinet as a whole is responsible for all government decisions and must defend their legislative agenda in the plenary sessions of the Riksdag. A vote of no confidence by an absolute majority of the Riksdag allows for the forced resignation of individual ministers or of the entire cabinet. A vote of no confidence becomes moot if within one week of the vote the government calls for new elections for the entire Riksdag.

Chief executive power is wielded by the prime minister, who is formally proposed by the speaker of the Riksdag and confirmed by vote of the parliamentary parties. The prime minister appoints a cabinet usually consisting of 1820 members reflecting the party or coalition of parties in power. Once a week the government takes decisions in a formal meeting presided over by the prime minister. The cabinet as a whole discusses all-important decisions prior to taking a decision. After a decision has been taken by the cabinet, the ministers practice collective responsibility in which all support the decision taken by the government. Ministers may issue directives but administrative decisions are taken by central boards, which have their respective spheres of activity delimited by the Riksdag.

National referenda on policy questions of national importance are permitted by the constitution. Sweden's parliament has the highest level of political representation of women in the world; 11 of the 20 ministers in the 2005 government were women, and 45% of the Riksdag members are women.


The unicameral system and the electoral system of proportional representation have allowed almost exact equality in proportional representation among the constituencies on the national level and has produced a multiparty system. The constitution requires, however, that a party must gain at least 4% of the national popular vote or 12% in a constituency to be represented in the Riksdag. Sweden has for many years utilized the party list system in which the candidates for office from any given party are listed in order of party preference. If a party won 10 seats in the Riksdag, the top 10 candidates from that party would be represented in parliament. In 1998, voters for the first time had the option of indicating which candidates on the party list whom they preferred to see elected to parliament and to local councils. A given candidate must receive at least 8% of his or her party's ballots in any electoral district to be moved to the top of the party's nomination list. If no candidate attains the 8% threshold, the party's nomination list remains in force.

Sweden had a stable party system until the end of the 1980s. The parties of the political right include the Moderate (formerly Conservative) Party (Moderata Samlingspartiet, M), which favors tax reform and trimming the welfare state; the Liberal Party (Folkpartiet Liberalerna, FP), which is a traditional European liberal party; and the Center (formerly Agrarian) Party (Centerpartiet, C), which has in the past represented rural interests and has tried to refashion itself as an "alternative" centrist party favoring environmental issues. The left side of the Swedish political spectrum includes the dominant Social Democratic Party (Socialdemokratiska Arbetarepartiet, S), which is responsible for creating the welfare state and which gets considerable support from organized labor in Sweden; and the Left (formerly Communist Left) Party (Vänsterpartiet, V), which has distanced itself from its communist past and now advocates positions that champion gender equality and attracts voters that are wary of the Social Democrats' move toward the center. In 1988, the environmentalist Green Party (Miljöpartiet de Gröna, MP) joined the long-standing parties on the left represented in the Riksdag. In the 1991 election, two new parties emerged on the right, the Christian Democrats (Kristdemokraterna, KD) and the New Democracy Party (Ny Demokratiska, NyD).

Except for a brief period in 1936, the Social Democratic Labor Party was in power almost uninterruptedly from 1932 to 1976, either alone or in coalition. In 1945, the Social Democrats dissolved the wartime Grand Coalition Cabinet representing every party except the Left Party Communists and launched a program of social reform. Although inflation and other difficulties slowed the Social Democratic program, steadily mounting production encouraged the government to push through its huge social welfare program, which was sanctioned in principle by all major parties.

The Social Democrats held or controlled all parliamentary majorities until the elections of September 1976 when a non-Socialist coalition including the Center Party, the Moderates, and the Liberals won 180 of the 349 seats at stake. The center-right coalition retained control in the 1979 election with a reduced majority of 175 seats and a stronger showing for the Moderates. In the election on 19 September 1982, however, the Social Democrats returned to power. Olof Palme, who had been the Social Democratic prime minister from 1969 to 1976, was able to put together a new coalition cabinet on 8 October 1982. His party remained in power, though with a reduction of seats, following the 1985 election. Palme was assassinated in February 1986; he was succeeded by Ingvar Carlsson.

The 1988 election was a watershed that registered political discontentment. The Social Democrats lost seats as the Moderates' and Liberals' share of the vote continued to increase. More remarkably, for the first time in 70 years, a new party gained representation in the Riksdagthe Green Party (MP), which obtained 20 seats. The Social Democrats were narrowly defeated in September 1991, and the government of Ingvar Carlsson gave way to that of Carl Bildt (Moderate Party), who headed a minority four-party, center-right coalition composed of the Moderates, the Liberals, the Center Party, and the Christian Democratic party, which together controlled 170 seats.

The 1991 election represented a gain for two previously unrepresented partiesChristian Democrats (26 seats) and New Democracy (25 seats)who managed to exceed the 4% threshold while the Greens fell below the threshold and lost representation in the Riksdag. New Democracy emerged prior to the 1991 general election as a party of discontent urging tax cuts and reduced immigration. The Left Party-Communists were renamed the Left Party (VP) in 1990.

The Moderate Coalition, which promised to end Sweden's deepening recession, found itself unable to address the country's problems, largely because of Social Democrat and popular opposition to its cost-cutting measures. In 1994, the Social Democrats were returned to office by a population reluctantly willing to bear austerity if initiated and directed by the party that created the welfare state. The Social Democratic Coalition government under Prime Minister Ingvar Carlsson navigated Sweden through the referendum on Swedish membership into the EU in late 1994. Carlsson was replaced as prime minister by the former finance minister, Göran Persson.

The September 1998 election represented a protest vote against the mainstream parties and perhaps greater voter polarization in Sweden. The mainstream party of the left, the Social Democrats, had their worst election showing in over 70 years but maintained power in a minority government dependent upon support from a formal alliance from the Left and Green parties. The Social Democrats slipped from 45.3% of the vote in 1994 to 36.4% in 1998, while the Left Party advanced from 6.2% in 1994 to 12% in 1998 and the Greens returned to the Riksdag with 4.5% of the national vote. Similarly on the right, the Christian Democrats advanced from 4.1% of vote in 1994 to 11.8% in 1998 at the expense of the more centrist Center and Liberal parties, which narrowly passed the 4% threshold. The Moderates' share of the vote held basically steady.

Much of this discontent in the 1998 election was attributed to the budget tightening process that resulted in major cutbacks in social welfare benefits. A growing level of public distrust of politicians was fueled by prominent scandals of misuse of public funds. The reform to allow voters to select individual candidates did not seem to have diminished the distance between voters and elected representatives as only 29.9% took advantage of the opportunity to do so at the national level.

The 2002 general election campaign focused largely on the issues of immigration and membership in the euro zone. The Liberals and Moderates supported a plan to import large numbers of guest workers, who would be classed as noncitizens. The Social Democrats and the Left Party denounced this plan. The Social Democrats registered a strong showing in the elections, winning 39.8% of the vote (up from 36.4% in 1998) and taking 144 of 349 seats in the Riksdag. The Social Democrats under Göran Persson formed a government with the Left Party (8.3% of the vote and 30 seats) and the Greens (4.6% and 17 seats). However, the Liberal Party, with its immigration plan, increased its strength in parliament, with 13.3% of the vote (up from 4.7% in 1998) and 48 seats. The Christian Democrats fell from 11.8% in 1998 to 9.1% of the vote in 2002 (33 seats). The Moderates took 15.2% of the vote and 55 seats. The next general elections were to be held September 2006.


Local self-government has a long tradition in Sweden as the civil role of the Lutheran Church has been gradually reduced. The first legislation establishing municipal governance is the Local Government Ordinances of 1862 that separated religious tasks from civil tasks which were given to cities and rural municipal districts. On 1 January 2000, the Church of Sweden separated from the central government, and local parishes lost their local government status.

Decentralization is markedly characteristic of Sweden's governmental structure. With the most recent reforms there are two types of local governance in Sweden: the municipality, or kommun, as the local unit and the county council as the regional unit. The country is divided into 21 counties, 2 regions, 289 municipalities, and one "county council-free municipality" on the island of Gotland, each with an elected council. Local government is administered by county councils and municipalities consisting of at least 20 members popularly elected, on a proportional basis, for four years. Under each council is an executive board with various committees. In addition, there is a governor (prefect), the government-appointed head of the administrative board in each of Sweden's counties, who holds supreme police and other supervisory authority. Local authorities are responsible for most social welfare services, including hospitals, elementary education, certain utilities, and the police force. It is up to the Swedish cabinet and parliament to decide on the overall framework of public sector activities, but within these wide parameters, local governments have a large measure of freedom to implement public programs.


Ordinary criminal and civil cases are tried in a local court (tingsrätt ), consisting of a judge and a panel of lay assessors appointed by the municipal council. Above these local courts are six courts of appeal (hovrätter ). The highest tribunal is the Supreme Court (Högsta Domstolen ), made up of at least 16 justices. Special cases are heard by the Supreme Administrative Court and other courts. The Swedish judicial procedure uses a jury of the Anglo-US type only in press libel suits. Capital punishment, last employed in 1910, is expressly forbidden by the constitution.

The judiciary is independent of executive control or political influence. The right to counsel of criminal defendants is restricted to cases in which the maximum penalty possible is six-month imprisonment or greater.

Sweden originated the judicial practice of the ombudsman when its first ombudsman was designated in 1766. The office has been in continuous existence since 1809. The institution has also been enshrined by the constitution and provides parliamentary control over the executive. The Riksdag elects four ombudsmen representing various interests such as consumers, gender equality, the press, children, the disabled, those experiencing ethnic and/or sexual orientation discrimination. The ombudsman is charged with supervising the observance of laws and statutes as applied by the courts and by public officials, excluding cabinet ministers, members of the Riksdag, or directly elected local government officials. The ombudsmen are concerned especially with protecting the civil rights of individual citizens and of religious and other groups. There are some 5,000 complaints lodged with the office of the ombudsman annually, though about 40% are dismissed immediately for a variety of reasons. Only about 2025% of these complaints are investigated fully and usually reflect an individual caught on a bureaucratic "merry-go-round." Ombudsmen may admonish or prosecute offenders, although prosecutions are relatively rare.


Sweden's policy of neutrality and nonalignment requires a strong, modern, and independent defense establishment. The budget allocated $5.6 billion for defense in 2005. Active armed forces that year totaled 27,600 with reservists numbering 262,000. The Army in 2005 had 13,800 active personnel, with 280 main battle tanks, 705 armored infantry fighting vehicles, 1,521 armored personnel carriers, and 820 artillery pieces. The Swedish Navy had 7,900 active personnel including a 1,300-member coastal defense force, and a 320-member naval aviation wing. There are naval stations at Stockholm, Karlskrona, and Göteborg. Major naval units include seven tactical submarines, 36 patrol and coastal vessels, and 21 mine warfare vessels. The Air Force in 2005 totaled 5,900 active personnel, operating 170 combat capable aircraft, including 13 fighter ground attack aircraft and 151 JAS-39 Gripen multi-role aircraft. A 600-person paramilitary force acts as the nation's coast guard and there are more than 35,000 people that belong to voluntary auxiliary organizations. Sweden participates in UN and peacekeeping missions in 11 countries or regions.


Sweden joined the United Nations on 19 November 1946; it takes part in ECE and several nonregional specialized agencies, such as UNESCO, UNCTAD, UNHCR, the FAO, the World Bank, IAEA, ILO, and the WHO. The country served on the UN Security Council from 199798. The first UN Conference on the Human Environment was held in Stockholm in June 1972. Together with Denmark, Finland, Iceland, and Norway, Sweden has been a member of the advisory Nordic Council since 1953 and cooperates with these other Scandinavian countries in social welfare and health insurance and in freeing frontiers of passport control. The nation is also a member of the Asian Development Bank, the African Development Bank, the Council of the Baltic Sea States, G-6, G-9, the Paris Club (G-10), the Inter-American Development Bank, the Nordic Investment Bank, OECD, OSCE, the NATO Partnership for Peace, and the Council of Europe. In 1995, Sweden became a member of the European Union. It has observer status in the OAS and the Western European Union.

Sweden has offered support to UN missions and operations in Kosovo (est. 1999), India and Pakistan (est. 1949), Ethiopia and Eritrea (est. 2000), Liberia (est. 2003), Sierra Leone (est. 1999), East Timor (est. 2002), Georgia (est. 1993), and the DROC (est. 1999), among others. Sweden is part of the Australia Group, the Zangger Committee, the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), the Nuclear Suppliers Group (London Group), Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, and the Nuclear Energy Agency.

In environmental cooperation, Sweden is part of the Antarctic Treaty; the Basel Convention; Conventions on Biological Diversity, Whaling, and Air Pollution; Ramsar; CITES; the London Convention; International Tropical Timber Agreements; the Kyoto Protocol; the Montréal Protocol; MARPOL; the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty; and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change, and Desertification.


Sweden is a highly industrialized country. The shift from agriculture to industry began in the 1930s and developed rapidly during the postwar period. Average annual growth of the GDP declined from 4.3% in the 1960s to 2% in the 1970s and to 1.6% in the 1980s. It grew by 1.4% in 1990 but fell 1.4% in 1991, 1.9% in 1992, and 2.1% in 1993, the longest period of decline in the 20th century. In 1994, the economy grew by 2.2%, ending the deeply troubling reversals of past years. From 1998 to 2000 GDP growth averaged 3.77%, but the global economic slowdown from 2001 helped reduce GDP growth to 1.6% in 2001 and 1.9% in 2002. Growth remained sluggish in 2003, but picked up in 2004. Real GDP growth was expected to accelerate from 2.4% in 2005 to 3% in 2006, before a modest slowdown in 2007. Over the 200105 period, real GDP growth averaged 2%.

Swedish living standards and purchasing power are among the highest in the world. However, inflation was a problem for several years after the international oil shocks of the 1970s, the annual rise in consumer prices peaking at 13.7% in 1980 after the second oil shock. The rate of price increases declined thereafter, but was still 10.4% in 1990 and 9.4% in 1991 before falling to 2.2% in 1992. By 1998 and 1999, inflation had all but disappeared, with annual rates of 0.4% and 0.3% respectively. In 2000, inflation rose to 1.3%, and during 2001 and 2002, the annual inflation rate averaged 2.5%. By 2005, the annual inflation rate averaged 0.7%, but inflationary pressures were expected to rise gradually over the period 200607. Over the 200105 period, inflation averaged 1.5%.

After hitting 14% in 1994, unemployment began to gradually recede. By 1998, unemployment was down to 6.5%, and by 2001, 3.9%. The unemployment rate stood at 4% in 2002, and was estimated at 5.6% in 2004. However, by 2005, the unemployment rate remained well above the government's 4% target: an unadjusted figure of 7.1% was registered in June 2005. While not high by European standards, many economists believed the true number of the unemployed is even larger.

Swedish industry is outstanding in supplying quality goods and specialized productsball bearings, high-grade steel, machine tools, and glasswarethat are in world demand. Intimate contact between trade, industry, and finance is a feature of the economy, as is the spread of factories to rural districts. Some natural resources are ample, the foremost being lumber, iron ore, and waterpower. Sweden's lack of oil and coal resources makes it dependent on imports for energy production, despite abundant waterpower.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Sweden's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $266.5 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $29,600. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 2.4%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 0.5%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 1.8% of GDP, industry 28.6%, and services 69.7%.

According to the World Bank, in 2003 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $578 million or about $65 per capita and accounted for approximately 0.2% of GDP.

The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in Sweden totaled $147.76 billion or about $16,499 per capita based on a GDP of $301.6 billion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that for the period 1990 to 2003 household consumption grew at an average annual rate of 1.7%. In 2001 it was estimated that approximately 17% of household consumption was spent on food, 12% on fuel, 4% on health care, and 14% on education.


In 2005, Sweden's labor force was estimated at 4.49 million persons. As of 2003, the services sector accounted for 75.1% of the workforce, with 22.6% engaged in industry, 2.1% in agriculture, and the remainder in undefined occupations. The unemployment rate in 2005 was estimated at 6%.

In 2005, about 80% of Swedish wage earners are members of trade unions, and within certain industrial branches the percentage is even higher. The trade union movement is based on voluntary membership, and there is neither a closed shop nor a union shop. Although workers have the right to strike, employers also have the right to use the lockout.

Agreements between employers and trade unions are generally worked out by negotiation. Public mediators or mediation commissions intervene if necessary. A labor court, made up of three impartial members and five representing employers, workers, and salaried employees, has jurisdiction over the application and interpretation of collective agreements already signed and may impose damages on employers, trade unions, or trade union members violating a contract. For many years, an overwhelming majority of the court's decisions have been unanimous, and since the end of the 1930s industrial peace has generally prevailed. In 1997, management and labor agreed to a new negotiating frame-work that has decreased strikes and increased wages. Swedish law requires employee representation on company boards of directors. A law passed in 1983 introduced employee funds, partly funded by contributions from profits of all Swedish companies, which give unions and employees equity in companies, while providing the companies with investment capital.

The legal minimum age for full-time employment is 16 years old, but only under the supervision of local authorities. In addition, minors under 18 can only work in the daytime and must be supervised. The regular workweek cannot exceed 40 hours, and overtime is limited to 48 hours over a four-week period and a total of 200 hours a year. However, these regulations may be modified by collective bargaining agreement. A minimum of five weeks of holiday with pay is stipulated by law. There is no national minimum wage: wages are negotiated in collective bargaining agreements. Workers, even at the lowest end of the pay scale, are able to provide a decent standard of living for their families. Health and safety standards are very high and are stringently enforced.


Only about 3% of Sweden's labor force earned their living in agriculture in 2000, compared with more than 50% at the beginning of the 20th century and about 20% in 1950. Production exceeds domestic consumption; however, a considerable amount of food is imported. About 6.5% of the land area of Sweden, or 2,672,000 hectares (6,603,000 acres), is classed as land cultivated with permanent or temporary crops. In 2003 there were 66,780 holdings with more than two hectares (five acres) of arable land. Farm holdings are intensively tilled; fertilizers are used heavily and mechanization is increasing. During 198090, the agricultural sector grew by an annual average of 1.5%. However, during 19902000, it remained essentially unchanged. During 200204, crop production was 3% higher than during 19992001.

Most farmers are elderly, and few small farms have a successor waiting to replace the present farmer. Government policy in recent years has been to merge small unprofitable farms into larger units of 1020 hectares (2550 acres) of arable land with some woodland, the size estimated able to support a family in the same living standard as an industrial worker. Most Swedish farmers are small landowners who also support themselves through forestry and fishing, and in 2003, 51% of farms were less than 20 hectares (50 acres) in extent. Farmer participation in the government's setaside program resulted in about 300,000 hectares (741,300 acres) of cropland being retired from production in 1990, and again in 1991. The full-time farm labor force has fallen from 45,000 in 1995 to 32,000 in 2003.

Grains (particularly oats, wheat, barley, and rye), potatoes and other root crops, vegetables, and fruits are the chief agricultural products. Sugar beet cultivation in Skåne is important and produces almost enough sugar to make Sweden self-sufficient. In 2004, Sweden produced 1,691,900 tons of barley; 925,300 tons of oats; 2,412,300 tons of wheat; 979,100 tons of potatoes; and 133,400 tons of rye.

In the last 50 years, Swedish agricultural policy for major commodities has developed under an official system of import levies, export support, and market intervention. This policy was in response to the economic depression of the 1930s, and for the country's need for food security in times of risk or war. The Warfare Preparedness Program, developed after World War II (193945), protected Swedish agriculture, resulting in high costs and overproduction. In 1991, a five-year agricultural reform program came into effect, whereby most subsidies and price regulations were eliminated, allowing consumer demand to determine production volumes. By 1995, Sweden's agricultural policy was fully in line with EU rules. Sweden also enacted a plan to convert 10% of the country's arable land to ecological, or organic, agriculture by increasing taxes on energy, fertilizers, and biocides. The government has also introduced incentives to promote the production of biomass for energy production. Due to a relatively short growing season, Sweden relies heavily on imported food and agricultural products. In 2003, agricultural and food products accounted for 8% of Sweden's imports.


Although the long winters necessitate indoor feeding from October to May, pastoral farming is important, and about 80% of farm income derives from animal products, especially dairy products. In 2005, there were 1.6 million head of cattle. Beef production totaled 142,100 tons in 2005. Liquid milk production totaled 3.32 million tons in 2005. Other dairy products made that year were cheese, 121,800 tons, and butter, 50,000 tons. Because the over-sufficiency of butter before 1970 weakened Sweden's position in world markets, the government encouraged farmers to shift to meat production. An agricultural reform program in the early 1990s dismantled many of the price regulations and subsidies for products like milk and meat in favor of market-oriented pricing. As these adjustments were made, the number of dairy producers fell from 24,786 in 1990 to 12,168 by 2000. Sweden's beef industry is now supported by direct EU subsidies and in programs connected with less favored area and environment supports.

The sheep population was 479,400 in 2005, and pigs numbered 1,823,000. There were 6,600,000 chickens during the same year. Fur farms breed large numbers of mink and a declining number of fox. Reindeer are raised by 51 Sami (Lapp) communities in the north, and between 1970 and 2003 the reindeer population in Lapp villages increased from 166,200 to 238,800.


Fish is an important item in the Swedish diet, and Sweden is both a major importer of fish products and a principal supplier to other countries. Göteborg, Bohus, and Halland are the principal fishing districts, but large quantities of fish are caught all along the coasts. At the beginning of 2004, there were 1,597 vessels in the Swedish fishing fleet, with 1,731 professional fishermen. Herring, cod, plaice, flounder, salmon, eel, mackerel, and shellfish are the most important saltwater varieties. Freshwater fish include trout, salmon, and crayfish, a national delicacy. In 2003, there were 360 aquacultural enterprises, yielding 4,585 tons of fish. The saltwater fish catch increased from 228,000 tons in 1971 to 259,000 tons in 1984, overcoming a significant drop in the 197479 period because of government conservation measures and the declining number of fishermen. The total catch amounted to 293,209 tons in 2003. By tradition, a large part of the annual catch is landed in Denmark. Fish for feed is the largest single commodity, accounting for 65% of the 2003 catch. Total landings were valued at $107.5 million in 2003. Herring and cod accounted for 19% and 6%, respectively, of total landings.


Sweden is one of the world's most heavily forested countries, with forests covering some 70% of the land area. Around 55% of the land area consists of productive forestry land, for a total of 22.7 million hectares (56.1 million acres). The percentage has only varied between 55.5% and 58.1 since the first National Forestry Inventory of 192329. Virtually all of Sweden's forests are regrowth; virgin forests cover 788,000 hectares (1,947,000 acres) and are almost exclusively found in national parks and nature reserves. The growing stock is estimated at 3 billion cu m (106 billion cu ft). The annual growth amounts to about 101 million cu m (3.5 billion cu ft). Annual removals decreased from an average of 70.8 million cu m (2.5 billion cu ft) during 1970/711974/75 to an average of 55.5 million cu m (1.96 billion cu ft) during 1976/771980/81 but increased to roughly 83 million cu m (2.93 billion cu ft) during recent years. Important varieties include spruce (46% of commercial stands), pine (38%), birch (11%), and oak, beech, alder, and aspen (5% combined). About half of the total forest area is owned by private persons and 30% by private corporations and rural communes. The government owns most of the remaining 20% of forests, but they are located, for the most part, in the north, where climatic conditions slow the trees' growth.

Forestry and farming are interdependent everywhere except in the most fertile plains; in northern Sweden, almost one of every two men works in the woods for at least part of the winter. Both the number of workers and the productivity of those who stayed on declined in the late 1970s. Since the early 1970s, the number of employees in the forestry sector has fallen by over 40%.

The exploitation of forest wealth ranks second in importance in the economy (after metal-based industry). Sweden competes with Canada for world leadership in the export of wood pulp and is the world's leading exporter of cellulose. In 2004, net exports of wood and wood products came to $14.9 billion and made up 12% of exports. The total timber felled in 2004 amounted to an estimated 63.3 million cu m (2.38 billion cu ft), of which coniferous sawlogs accounted for 53% of production; pulpwood, 38%; and fuel wood, 9%. Mostly roads and trains are used to transport timber; only a few of the biggest rivers are used. About 70% of timber harvested comes from clear-cutting, and 30% from thinning. About 60% of Sweden's annual forestry production is exported every year. Sweden is the third-largest exporter of paper and board, supplying 10% of the export market, with production amounting to 3% of the world's total. In 2004, Sweden's production of sawn timber reached its highest level ever. That year, Sweden's 180 major saw mills processed 16.9 million cu m (597 million cu ft) of lumber, 44 mills produced 12.8 million tons of pulp, and 46 paper facilities manufactured 11.9 million tons of paper.

A forest policy introduced in 1980 coordinates forestry measures more closely with industrial needs and places increased emphasis on clear-cutting and more complete use of the forest biomass, including stumps and small trees. The government, through the Forest Commission, enforces pest control, the prevention of premature cutting, and the use of proper methods of preserving permanent forest cover. The government decided in the early 1990s to eliminate subsidies to commercial forestry because such subsidies had been counterproductive in a strongly competitive international market. Nature conservation agreements between forest owners and the government have been established to protect and develop natural areas. Between 1994 and 2003, 1,750 agreements were negotiated, with landowners' compensation totaling $11.2 million.

In January 2005 a severe storm raged through southern Sweden and caused major damage to forests. About 75 million cu m (2.6 billion cu ft) of timber, nearly the total annual cut for all of Sweden, was damaged by the storm, 80% Norway spruce.


Since ancient days, mining and the iron industry have been of great importance in the economic life of Sweden, which was among the most active mining countries in Europe. In addition to iron ore, Sweden also is a producer of primary metals such as zinc, copper and lead, as well as industrial minerals such as dolomite, feldspar, granite, kaolin, quartz and limestone. Sweden accounted for a large percentage of Western Europe's iron output, and was home to the region's largest gold mine.

Iron-ore production in 2004 (concentrate and pellets) was estimated at 22,300,000 metric tons, up from an estimated 21,500,000 metric tons in 2003. The Bergslagen region, in central Sweden, yielded high-grade ores for quality steel. Gold mine output in 2004 totaled 5,300 kg, up from 4,300 kg in 2003, while silver mine output in 2004 totaled 292,600 kg, down from 306,800 kg in 2003. Lead mine output in 2004 totaled 33,900 metric tons, while copper mine output, in that year, totaled 85,500 metric tons. Zinc mine output in 2004 totaled 160,600 metric tons. Lead, copper, zinc, gold, and silver were produced in the rich Skellefte (Boliden) region, where bismuth, cobalt, and huge quantities of arsenic were also found. The open-pit Björgal gold mine upgraded its facility, to increase production capacity to 3,000 kg per year, from 2,600 kg per year in 1996. Further south, phosphate, tungsten, kyanite, and pyrite were found. Sweden also produced hydraulic cement, kaolin clay, feldspar, fertilizer, graphite, lime, quartz, quartzite, dimension and crushed stone (including dolomite, granite (for domestic use and for export), limestone, sandstone, and slate), sulfur, and soapstone talc. Marble (in Askersund) and ilmenite were also found in Sweden.


Sweden has no proven reserves of oil or natural gas, and only small reserves of coal. However, the country does possess the ability to refine crude oil, and with many rivers, waterfalls, and lakes, the country has favorable conditions for waterpower.

As of 1 January 2005, Sweden had no proven reserves of natural gas or crude oil, but did have a crude oil refining capacity of 434,000 barrels per day. Sweden's limited coal reserves, as of 2001, were placed at one million short tons. Since the 1970s, Sweden has been reducing its petroleum imports. The share of oil in the primary energy supply declined from nearly 70% in 1979 to 31.6% in 2002. In the same year, nuclear energy accounted for another 29.6% of primary energy, hydroelectricity 30%, coal 4.1%, natural gas 1.5%, and renewable sources for the rest. In 2002, Sweden's imports of all petroleum products, including crude oil, averaged 510,990 barrels per day. Of that amount, crude oil accounted for 370,430 barrels per day. Refined oil output in 2002 averaged 381,640 barrels per day, while demand that year for refined products averaged 337,340 barrels per day.

In 2002, Sweden's demand for dry natural gas totaled 34.47 billion cu ft, all of which was met by imports, which came to 34.75 billion cu ft. There was no domestic production of coal in 2002. All of Sweden's coal needs were met by imports. In that year, imports of coal totaled 3,666,000 short tons, of which 3,042,000 short tons consisted of hard coal, and 624,000 tons of coke.

Sweden's electric generating sector is marked by a high dependence upon hydroelectric power, and to a lesser extent on nuclear power. Total electric power generating capacity in 2002 was 33.793 million kW, of which hydroelectric generating capacity came to 16.523 million kW and nuclear power at 9.436 million kW. Conventional thermal fuel generating capacity in 2002 stood at 7.536 million kW, with geothermal/other sources at 0.298 million kW. For that same year, electric power output totaled 140.662 billion kWh, of which 4.4% was from fossil fuels, 46.8% from hydropower, 45.6% from nuclear power, and 3.2% from other sources. Consumption of electricity in 2002 was 136.172 billion kWh.

Sweden's heavy use of nuclear energy stems from an ambitious nuclear energy program, under which seven nuclear reactors came into operation between 1972 and 1980. By 1986, 12 units offered a capacity of 9.4 million kWh. However, by 2010, all 12 will be shut down. Plants fired by natural gas will replace nuclear energy's role. Energy conservation, development of alternative energy sources, and increased use of imported coal are also planned.

More than half of Sweden's hydroelectric output is produced underground. Because of environmental considerations, high production costs, and low world market prices, Sweden's substantial uranium reservessome 250,000300,000 tons (or about 20% of the known world reserves)have not been exploited.


The basic resources for industrial development are forests, iron ore, and waterpower. Forest products, machinery, and motor vehicles are primary exports. Industrial production accounted for 29% of GDP in 2001. From 1990 to 1992, Swedish industry suffered as a result of the deep national recession as well as an overpriced labor pool. In those years, manufacturing output fell by 10%. Between 1989 and 1992, 260,000 Swedes lost their jobs in the manufacturing sector. As the economy rebounded in subsequent years, however, especially the growth turnaround in 199496, industrial output has grown. In 1996, it was up 17% from 1990. Between 1993 and 1996, industrial investments more than doubled. Industrial growth remained a solid 4.5% in 2001 and 5.5% in 2004.

Since the end of World War II, emphasis has shifted from production of consumer goods to the manufacture of export items. Swedish-made ships, airplanes, and automobiles are considered outstanding in quality. Sweden's motor vehicle producers are Volvo and SAAB-Scania. As evidence of the growing consolidation of the world automotive industry, however, in 1990 the US's General Motors Corp. made a successful offer for half of Saab's automotive operations, and in 2000 it bought the remaining 50%. In 1999, the US's Ford Motor Co. purchased Sweden's Volvo car operations (excluding its heavy truck operations). In 2005, General Motors indicated it would begin to make the first truly non-Swedish Saab, by building the automobiles in Germany to save costs.

Before World War II, virtually the entire tonnage of iron and steel products consisted of high-grade steels, but in recent years exports have included considerable quantities of commercial grades. Transport equipment and iron and steel are of declining importance, however, while exports of machinery, precision equipment, chemicals, and paper have been growing in value.

Sweden is a world leader in telecommunications, computers, electronics, robotics, pharmaceutical and medical products, and biotechnology. Sweden's Ericsson is the world's largest telecommunications service provider, with 18,000 service professionals in over 140 countries in 2005. Ericsson supports networks that handle more than 550 million subscribers. Sweden has the largest number of biotechnology companies per capita in the world.


Sweden's high-quality scientific and technological development is renowned throughout the world. Technological products invented or developed by Swedish firms include the self-aligning ball bearing, the cream separator, the three-phase electric motor, and a refrigerator without moving parts. Sweden's more recent applications of sophisticated technology range from powder metallurgy to the Hasselblad camera and the Viggen jet fighter. Six of Sweden's largest industrial corporations are engineering companies: Volvo, SAAB-Scania, ASEA, Electrolux, SKF, and L. M. Ericsson. In 2002, high-tech exports were valued at $10.76 billion and accounted for 16% of manufactured exports.

State-financed research, centering on the universities, is directed by the Council for Planning and Coordination of Research. Long-term industrial research and development is the responsibility of the government through the National Board for Technological Development. In 198797, Swedish students graduating with science and engineering degrees account for 38% of all university students. In 2002, of all bachelor's degrees awarded, 30.3% were for the sciences (natural, mathematics and computers, engineering). In 2001, expenditures for research and development (R&D) totaled $9.6 billion, or 4.27% of GDP. Of that amount, the business sector accounted for 71.9%, followed by the government at 21%, higher education at 3.8% and foreign sources at 3.4%. As of 2001, there were 5,171 scientists and engineers engaged in R&D per million people.

Institutions that have played an important role in the advancement of science, both in Sweden and throughout the world, are the Nobel Foundation, which sponsors annual awards in chemistry, physics, and physiology or medicine, as well as for peace, literature, and economic science; the Royal Academy of Sciences, founded in 1739 in Stockholm; the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences, founded in 1919 at Stockholm; and the Karolinska Institute, founded in 1810 in Stockholm, specializing in medical research. Sweden has 18 universities that offer courses in basic and applied sciences.


Stockholm, Gothenburg, and Malmö are the nation's primary distribution centers. Of the country's retail business, most is in private hands, but the consumer cooperative movement has long been one of the strongest in Europe. The local organizations belong to the Cooperative Union and Wholesale Society, a central buying and manufacturing organization, which operates factories, department stores, supermarkets, and specialized shops. The Swedish Federation of Trade is another important organization for importers and traders in the private sector. Competition between the cooperatives and private enterprise has improved selling methods, so that Sweden's self-service shops are among the most modern in Europe.

Department stores are located in the major cities. Franchising has become popular in the fast-food, apparel, home improvement, and business services sectors. Wholesale and retail outlets, as well as supermarkets, are plentiful. Value-added taxes apply to all goods and services. The general VAT tax is 25%, with reduced rates of 12% on food and 6% on items including books, magazines, and personal transportation.

The nation's three major trade fair/exhibition sites are the Stockholm International Fair, the Swedish Exhibition and Congress Center, and the Sollentuna Fair.

Offices and stores are open on weekdays from 9 am to 5 or 6 pm (in summer, sometimes to 3 or 4 pm) and close early on Saturdays. However, many stores stay open one night a week, and some department stores are open on Sundays. Many businesses are closed, or management is unavailable, for extended vacations in the summer and around the Christmas holidays.


Sweden is one of the world's leading free-trading nations, with about half the economy dependent upon trade, and business operating largely free of political influence. The volume of Sweden's foreign trade has increased very rapidly since World War II, mainly as a result of the gradual liberalization of trade restrictions within the framework of the OECD, EFTA, and the EU. Telecommunications equipment, automobile manufacturing, and logging dominate export commodities from Sweden. Sweden has one of the most open and competitive markets in the world, as of 2005 ranking behind only Finland and the United States in the International Competitiveness Ranking. Sweden is home to more multinational corporations per capita than any other nation in the world. It is at the economic center of the Nordic and Baltic world, a market of over 27 million consumers. The United States is the number one export market for Swedish products (followed by Germany, Norway, the United Kingdom, and Denmark), while imports from the United States rank 8th, behind Germany, Denmark, the United Kingdom, Norway, the Netherlands, France, and Finland. In 2004, with exports of $123.1 billion and imports of $99.6 billion, Sweden had a trade surplus of $23.5 billion. The major exports in 2004 were machinery and transportation equipment (51.4% of total exports), wood and paper products (12.2%), chemicals and rubber products (12.1%), and miscellaneous manufactures (11%). The major imports in 2004 were machinery and transportation equipment (45.8% of all imports), miscellaneous manufactures (19.7%), chemicals and rubber products (12.1%), and mineral fuels and lubricants (9.7%).

Country Exports Imports Balance
World 101,572.6 83,380.7 18,191.9
United States 11,659.2 3,259.4 8,399.8
Germany 10,256.0 15,600.0 -5,344.0
Norway 8,574.4 6,646.1 1,928.3
United Kingdom 7,942.4 6,698.9 1,243.5
Denmark 6,550.5 7,519.8 -969.3
Finland 5,853.3 4,660.7 1,192.6
Netherlands 5,046.8 5,671.7 -624.9
France-Monaco 4,962.6 4,605.5 357.1
Belgium 4,598.9 3,496.3 1,102.6
Italy-San Marino-Holy See 3,646.1 2,882.1 764.0
() data not available or not significant.
Current Account 22,844.0
   Balance on goods 18,933.0
      Imports -83,147.0
      Exports 102,080.0
   Balance on services 1,883.0
   Balance on income 297.0
   Current transfers 1,732.0
Capital Account -46.0
Financial Account -20,163.0
   Direct investment abroad -17,341.0
   Direct investment in Sweden 3,268.0
   Portfolio investment assets -13,701.0
   Portfolio investment liabilities 4,134.0
   Financial derivatives 1,081.0
   Other investment assets -8,349.0
   Other investment liabilities 10,744.0
Net Errors and Omissions -558.0
Reserves and Related Items -2,076.0
() data not available or not significant.


From 1974 through 1985, Sweden ran annual current-account deficits (except in 1984) because of increases in world oil prices and a decline in the competitiveness of Swedish export products on the world market. Until 1977, deficits were financed mainly through long-term foreign private borrowing by the private sector. Thereafter, however, central government borrowing expanded rapidly. Current account deficits increased through much of the 1990s, but a turnaround began in 1996 when the deficit comprised 2% of GDP after a high of 12% in 1993. A rebounding trade balance surplus and a turnaround in direct investment aided in the improvement. The lifting of controls on foreign direct investment, combined with improved competitiveness accruing from greater wage restraint and rising productivity, are expected to bring continued interest in investing in Sweden. Also attractive is Sweden's liberal international investment policy, allowing 100% foreign ownership of virtually any sector, other than certain types of transportation and arms manufacture. The current account surplus was $28.7 billion in 2004 (equivalent to 8.3% of GDP).


The Central Bank of Sweden (Sveriges Riksbank), founded in 1656, is the oldest bank in the world. It is the bank of issue and regulates domestic banking operations. The European Central Bank is responsible for determining monetary policy and setting interest rates. The largest commercial bank is the Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken. In the early 1990s, Swedish banks suffered severe losses; the government was forced to intervene and support two of the five largest commercial banks, Nordbanken and Gota Bank, by taking them over and eventually merging them, and the savings bank Forsta Sparbanken. By the end of 1996, Swedish banks showed improved results, with reduced credit losses and a stricter control of costs since the banking crises set in at the beginning of the 1990s. The smaller banks serve provincial interests. Deposit accounts at various lengths of call are used for short-term credit by industry and trade. The deregulation of financial markets has paved the way for foreign banks to open offices in Sweden. In 1997, Sweden's banking sector saw a series of mergers and acquisitions as Svenska Handelsbanken, the nation's largest bank, acquired the country's largest mortgage lender, Stadshypotek. Swedbank and Föreningsbanken merged, creating the second-largest bank. ForeningsSparbanken is now trying to merge with Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken (SEB) to compete with Nordea for dominance of the Nordic banking market. However, this deal must still garner the approval of the EU. Den Donske Bank, based in Denmark, made the first incursion by a foreign bank into the Swedish retail sector when it purchased Ostgöta Enskilda Bank. By December 2000, 41 commercial banks remained in Sweden.

Mortgage banks of various types meet the needs of property owners, home builders, farmers, and shipbuilders. Credit also is extended by some 500 local rural credit societies and by about an equal number of agricultural cooperatives. There are four semi-governmental credit concerns, organized as business companies and created in cooperation with private commercial banks to facilitate long-term lending to agriculture, industry, small industry, and exports. Although the Riksbank's note issue is not tied to its gold reserves, there is an adjustable legal limit.

The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, M2an aggregate equal to currency and demand deposits plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $88.1 billion. The money market rate, the rate at which financial institutions lend to one another in the short term, was 4.08%. The discount rate, the interest rate at which the central bank lends to financial institutions in the short term, was 2%.

The Riksbank lends money to the commercial banks and other credit associations against securities. Traditionally, the Swedish people have preferred to save by placing money in these banks rather than by direct investment, although this seemed likely to change if the Swedish pension reforms of 1997 were fully enacted, allowing workers to decide how to invest a portion of their retirement reserves. In 1992, 118 Swedish companies and 10 foreign companies were listed on the Stockholm Stock Exchange (Stockholms Fondbörs), which was computerized that year. In 1997, the Stockholm Stock Exchange entered into a joint equity trading union with the Danish bourse, creating the first trans-national link of its kind in Europe. The joint equities market became Europe's sixth-largest.

Profits from the sale of securities are taxable provided they have been owned for less than five years. The capital gain is wholly taxable for securities held less than two years, but only 40% of the gain is taxable if the shares have been held more than two years. For machinery and equipment a minimum write-off period of three years is prescribed. The 1985 deregulation of the credit market included the removal of ceilings on lending banks, finance houses, and housing credit institutions and had the effect of diminishing part of Sweden's "gray market": direct contact between companies and private individuals with money for loans. Stockbroking is authorized by the Bank Inspection Board. As of 2004, a total of 256 companies were listed on the Stockholmsborsen, which had a market capitalization of $376.781 billion.


The Swedish people are very life-insurance conscious. In 1985, there were at least 560 Swedish insurance companies. Most companies are very small, however, and only 65 firms operated on a nationwide scale in 1995. The five largest companies held almost 80% of total insurance assets. Automobile liability insurance is compulsory in Sweden, as are nuclear liability and workers' compensation.

Since the deregulation of financial markets in the late 1980s, new credit institutions have appeared which target niche sectors in banking and other financial services. Insurance companies, such as Skandia, have created their own banks. The National Insurance Pension Fund and private insurance funds are among the largest single domestic investors on the Stockholm Stock Exchange. The insurance regulatory authority is the Financial Supervisory Authority which is an independent state agency. In 2003, the value of all direct insurance premiums written totaled $21.040 billion, of which life insurance premiums accounted for $14.297 billion. In that same year, Sweden's top nonlife insurer was IF Skade, which had gross written nonlife premiums of $1.1 billion, while the country's leading life insurer was Alecta, with gross written life insurance premiums of $2.3 billion.


The financial year extends from 1 July to 30 June. Estimates are prepared in the autumn by the Ministry of the Budget and examined by the Riksdag early the following year. The budget contains two sections: an operating budget and a capital budget, the latter generally representing investments in state enterprises. The policy of running a surplus on the budget in boom years and a deficit in depression was used in the period between the two world wars and has been continued as a way of combating inflation. From 1982 to 1989, the budget balance improved from a deficit equivalent to about 13% of GDP to a surplus of nearly 2% of GDP. In 1990, however, a deficit reappeared that was equivalent to 1.2 of GDP. In 1991 and 1992, the budget deficits widened to 4.3% and 9.6% of GDP, respectively. The deficit increased to 12.3% of GDP in 1993, before beginning a sharp decline due to austerity measures, put in place by the Social Democrats; although smaller, deficits remained the norm through the late 1990s. Surpluses were projected for the early 2000s.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 Sweden's central government took in revenues of approximately $210.5 billion and had expenditures of $205.9 billion. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately $4.6 billion. Public debt in 2005 amounted to 50.3% of GDP. Total external debt was $516.1 billion.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2002, the most recent year for which it had data, central government revenues were Kr890.5 billion and expenditures were Kr883.2 billion. The value of revenues was us$91 million and expenditures us$90 million, based on an exchange rate for 2002 of us$1 = Kr9.7371 as reported by the IMF. Government outlays by function were as follows: general public services, 23.5%; defense, 5.7%; public order and safety, 3.2%; economic affairs, 9.4%; environmental protection, 0.5%; housing and community amenities, 0.6%; health, 2.9%; recreation, culture, and religion, 0.8%; education, 6.4%; and social protection, 47.2%.


With so many social services in effect, and a virtual absence of poverty, Sweden's personal income taxes are the highest in the world. As of 2005, Sweden's top personal income tax rates effectively stood at 53% to 58%. Depending upon the locality, this included municipal income taxes on employment income averaging 31%, in addition to national income tax rates of 2025%. In addition, capital income is taxed at a flat rate of 30%. Income of nonresidents is subject to a flat rate of 25%. Personal deductions vary between 8,600 and 18,100 krona ($6,364 and $13,400). A health tax is levied at 1.5%. There is also a real estate tax.

In contrast, corporations are taxed relatively lightly in comparison with those in many other countries. The national income tax rate on corporations was 28% in 2005 (separate municipal income tax on corporations was abolished as of 1985), with no distinction between distributed and undistributed profits. Capital gains are taxed like other corporate income at 28%, although capital gains on shares held for business purposes are tax exempt. The with-holding tax on dividends is 30%, which is applied to nonresidents. Royalties paid to residents are not taxed, but those paid to nonresidents are subject to the corporate rate. These rates are often reduced or eliminated in bilateral tax treaties. Interest income is not subject to withholding.

Tax liability is determined according to a firm's books so long as these are properly kept. Companies are allowed considerable discretion in determining their net income for any particular year; they can take advantage of the flexible rules governing the valuation of stocks and the depreciation of equipment and machinery. Swedish companies may set aside an investment reserve in boom years and use this reserve in years of slack production.

For decades, the Swedish ratio of indirect taxes to total tax revenue was one of the lowest in the world. During World War II and the early postwar years, however, a national sales tax was in effect. The national sales tax was replaced by a value-added tax (VAT) with a standard rate of 10% on 1 January 1969. The standard rate was increased to 17.65% in 1971, to 20.63% in 1977, to 46% in 1980, to 21.51% in 1981, to 23.46% in 1983, to 25% in 1992, where it has since remained, as of 2005. Almost all goods and most services are subject to this tax. There are two reduced rates: 12%, applied to food, and 6%, applied to domestic passenger transport, newspapers, and, as of 1 January 2002, books and magazines. A zero VAT rate applies to printing services, ship and airplane building and repair, sea rescue services, prescription medicine, aircraft fuel, and gold supplied to the Central Bank.


Tariffs were established in the 19th century to allow for the development of Swedish industry, but the rates have traditionally been among the lowest in the world. Sweden subscribes to the OECD trade liberalization program and imports, with few exceptions, are not subject to controls. As a member of EFTA, Sweden abolished customs duties against other EFTA countries by the end of 1966. In 1991, Sweden formally began the process of joining the European Union and officially became a member on 1 January 1995. Some 90% of imports from developing countries are duty-free.

In general, the importation of raw materials is duty-free. Import duties are based on freight, insurance and handling costs, broker fees, package costs, royalties or license fees, and the seller's yield if sale will be to a third party. Import restrictions apply mainly to protected agricultural products, automobiles, and trade with Eastern Europe and the Far East. Sweden applies common external European Union tariffs to imports from the United States at rates ranging from 214% for industrial products. Other import taxes include a 25% value-added tax (VAT). A lower 12% VAT applies for food and selected services, and a 6% rate for periodicals and books.


Sweden has some of the most liberal foreign investment laws in the world. Sweden's corporate income tax rate of 28%, one of the lowest in Europe, makes Sweden an attractive target of foreign investors. It is open to nearly all foreign investment and allows 100% foreign ownership, except in certain transportation sectors (air and maritime) and in arms manufacture. For the period 19881990, Sweden was ranked third of 140 countries on UNCTAD's Inward FDI Potential Index, after the United States and Canada. For the period 19882000, Sweden was number two, behind only the United States. Investing in Sweden is also attractive due to its competent employees, excellent infrastructure, and good access to capital. On the negative side are high labor costs, rigid labor legislation, and overall high costs in Sweden.

Sweden's outward FDI rose steadily during the 1990s, from $1.4 billion in 1993 to a peak of $41.7 billion in 2000, ahead of inward FDI for the year by $18.3 billion. Outward FDI dropped to $6.2 billion in 2001 but rose to $11.3 billion in 2002. Inward FDI flow was only $3.7 billion in 1993, but had reached $19.5 billion by 1998. FDI inflows peaked in 1999 at $60.8 billion, then moderated to $23.4 billion in 2000. The world economic slowdown reduced FDI inflows to $12.7 billion in 2001, and an estimated $11.5 billion in 2002. These figures must be considered in light of FDI flows worldwide during that period, which dropped 50%. Another dramatic decline of FDI inflows took place in 2003, with a net outflow from Sweden amounting to $15.7 billion. The rate of net outflow slowed somewhat in 2004. Over the 200105 period, FDI inflows amounted to 2.5% of GDP.

By 2001, cumulative FDI in Sweden totaled $155 billion, the 10th-highest total in the world. The countries with the largest Swedish investments in 2005 were, in order: the United States, Finland, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Belgium/Luxemburg, Norway, Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, and France.


Between 1946 and 1953, the Swedish economy was dominated by expansion. Thereafter, although production continued to increase (at a lessened rate), inflation was a matter of concern. Expansion of output slowed down during the international oil crisis and recession of 197475, largely as a result of a weakening of foreign demand for Swedish products, but employment remained high. Thus far, the economy has managed to contain inflationary trends within reasonable limits. Although some industries (the railways, iron-ore mines, etc.) have been nationalized for a long time, private concerns carry on most of Sweden's industry, in terms of both number of workers and value of output.

During periods of unemployment such as the world recession of 198081, the central government and the municipalities have expended funds to provide additional employment and to keep the unemployment rate relatively low. The jobless have been put to work building dwellings and highways, extending reforestation work, and constructing water and sewer installations, harbors, lighthouses, railroads, defense projects, and telecommunications facilities. Although the government resorted to stockpiling industrial goods to combat the economic slowdown in the mid-1970s, the cost was considered too high, and the policy was not repeated during the recession of the early 1980s. More recently, the emphasis has been on cutting costs and restraining inflation to make Swedish goods more competitive in the international marketplace.

Regional development has been fostered by the use of investment funds (a tax device permitting enterprises to set aside tax-free reserves during boom years to be used for investment during recessions), relief works, and government lending to small-scale industry. A national program for regional development was introduced in 1972 to develop services and job opportunities in provinces that have lagged behind in industrial development. Projects in northern Sweden benefited most from this program.

In 1991, the government announced a plan to privatize 35 wholly or partially state-owned firms with annual turnovers totaling Kr150 billion. This program was delayed by the economic recession, however. A 10-year, Kr110 billion program of infrastructure investment was announced in 1994. More than 90% of the money would be spent on the road and rail networks, and a bridge that would link Malmö with Copenhagen. The Øresund Bridge opened in 2000, covering 10.5 miles (17 km). It physically links Sweden with the rest of Western Europe.

Sweden's entry into the EU in 1995 dominated the second half of the 1990s. As a result of EU membership, Sweden harmonized its trade laws with those its fellow members and continued privatization and liberalization of its economy. Sweden also qualified for membership in the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) but decided to opt out. Future membership was contingent upon passage of a referendum, which was held in September 2003. Swedes decided not to join the euro zone by a vote of 56% to 42%. Along with the United Kingdom and Denmark, Sweden continues to stand aside from the EU's 12 other countries that, by 2005, had abandoned their old currencies.

As of 2002, around 34% of the labor force was employed in the public sector, and general government expenditure accounted for around 55% of GDP. Economic growth in the late 1990s and in the early 2000s was relatively strong, employment rates were high, there were large surpluses in both the general government and the external current accounts, and the public debt was declining. Despite the global economic slowdown of 200102, with the Swedish labor market situation weakening, by 2004 signs of a cyclical recovery had become clear. The strongest signs of recovery could be seen in the export industry. Sweden has made large investments in education and entrepreneurship, and is at the forefront of the global telecommunications and IT industry. These factors have contributed to a well-performing economy.

The key challenge for the Swedish economy will be to maintain the core of the social-welfare system as the population ages. Because Sweden has a budget surplus, it is better placed than most other OECD nations to do this. By 2015, the number of people 65 years of age and older is expected to be 25% larger than in 2005, while the total population in other age categories will remain largely unchanged. Although this trend is not unique to Sweden, it will need to respond to the higher demand for medical care and related social services. In this light, high labor force participation and high employment are desirable.


Sweden has been called the model welfare state; every citizen is guaranteed a minimum subsistence income and medical care. Social welfare legislation was introduced relatively early and was greatly expanded after World War II. The system is financed partly by insurance premium payments and partly by state and local taxation. Basic benefits are often increased by cost-of-living supplements. Employers and employees contribute to the program, with government funding certain aspects of the system. All residents are covered by sickness and maternity benefits. There is also a universal system for family allowances completely funded by the government.

Old-age pensions are paid to all residents 65 years of age or older, but an earlier retirement is possible, with a reduction in pension benefits. Under the new system, there is a flexible retirement age, starting from 61, and is funded by 6.95% of employee earnings and 6.4% of employer payroll. Unemployment insurance is administered by the trade unions and provides benefits according to salary to those who voluntarily enroll. Unemployment relief, through monetary assistance or public works, is provided by the central government or by state-subsidized municipalities.

Compulsory health service was introduced in 1955. Hospital care is free for up to two years. Medical services and medicines are provided at substantially reduced rates or, in some cases, without charge. In the event of illness, employed persons and women staying at home to raise children receive cash payments and get further benefits according to income. Costs of confinement and maternity allowances for women are covered by health insurance. There is also a national program of dental insurance.

Workers' compensation is coordinated with the national health service scheme. This type of insurance, financed entirely by employers, covers work time as well as travel to and from work for all employees. Benefits include free medical treatment, medicines, and appliances. Annuities are paid to persons permanently disabled, and funeral benefits and pensions to dependents are provided in case of death. Public assistance is provided for blind or infirm persons confined to their homes and to people who are in sanitariums, special hospitals, or charitable institutions.

The law requires women to have equal opportunities and equal pay. Despite these legal protections, women are underrepresented in higher-paying jobs, and often receive less pay for equal work. The Equal Opportunity Ombudsman, a government official, reviews equality plans required by employers and investigates allegations of gender discrimination. Violence against women, primarily spousal abuse, persists, although the government has many programs to deal with these issues. The laws protect women, and shelters and other assistance to victims is available. Strict laws protecting children from abuse are also in effect.

There is general tolerance for religious and ethnic minorities, although right-wing and neonazi activities are reported. The government protects and supports minority languages. Human rights are deeply respected in Sweden.


The national health insurance system, financed by the state and employer contributions, was established in January 1955 and covers all Swedish citizens and alien residents. Total expenditure for health care insurance was 7.9% of the gross domestic product. Principal health care reform issues in the 1990s include universal and equal access to services and equitable funding of health care. For rural medical attention, doctors are supplemented by district nurses. Only about 5% of all physicians are in full-time private practice. The corresponding figure for private dentists, however, is more than 50%. Swedish hospitals are well known for their high standards.

Cardiovascular disease accounted for about half of all deaths; cancer was the next leading cause of death. Many health problems are related to environment and lifestyle (including tobacco smoking, alcohol consumption, and overeating). The smoking rates were similar between men (22%) and women (24%) over the age of 15. Periodic campaigns are conducted to reduce tuberculosis (with a nationwide X-ray survey), cancer, rheumatism, and venereal diseases.

Immunization rates for children under age one were as follows: diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 99% and measles, 96%. There is a well-developed prenatal service. Children receive free dental care until the age of 20.

Sweden's population is the world's oldest; nearly one in five people is 64 years of age or older. In 2005, average life expectancy in Sweden was 80.40 years. As of 2002, the crude birth rate and overall mortality rate were estimated at, respectively, 9.8 and 10.6 per 1,000 people. Infant mortality has been sharply reduced, from 60 per 1,000 live births in 1920 to 2.77 per 1,000 in 2000, one of the lowest rates in the world.

The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 0.10 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 3,600 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 100 deaths from AIDS in 2003.


In 1998, there were 4.3 million dwellings nationwide. Of these, about 2.3 million were multi-family dwellings and the remainder were one- or two-family homes. In 1998, about 20% of all dwellings were tenant owned, 40% were rental units, and 20% were owner occupied. There were about 4.2 million households that year, with an average of 2.1 people per household. In 1999, 15,000 new dwellings were started. The projected number of dwellings in 2004 was 4,379,541.

Nearly all of Sweden's housing stock was modernized during a mass housing improvement program in the 1980s. Most houses are built by private contractors, but more than half of new housing is designed, planned, and financed by nonprofit organizations and cooperatives. NPOs and cooperatives provide dwellings for members who are designated as tenant-owners of their dwellings.

The government subsidizes new construction and reconditioning, helps various groups to obtain better housing, and extends credit at interest rates lower than those obtainable in the open market. A system of rent controls, introduced in 1942 and designed to freeze rents at the existing rate, was abolished in 1975. It has been replaced by a policy known as a utility-value provision, through which the rent of a flat may not be higher than that of a similar flat in the same area which is of the same general value to the occupant. Many tenant organizations negotiate rental agreements with landlords and rent increases can be reviewed by a tribunal. The National Board of Housing, Building, and Planning estimates that 250,000 new dwellings will be built from 200010. About 30,000 dwellings per year will be renovated or rebuilt during the same period.


Education is free and compulsory between ages 7 and 15. A nine-year comprehensive course was introduced in 1962. All pupils receive the same course of instruction for six years; beginning in the seventh year the curriculum is differentiated, and students may choose between a classical and a vocational course. About 80% of all students then enter gymnasium (senior high school) or continuation schools. The gymnasium specializes in classical or modern languages or science; after the three-year course, students may take a final graduating examination. The continuation schools offer a two-year curriculum that is more practical and specialized than that of the gymnasium and leads more quickly to the practice of a trade. Both comprehensive schools and secondary schools are administered by local authorities, while the central government provides grants-in-aid to cover the greater part of the costs.

In 2001, about 75% of children between the ages of three and six were enrolled in some type of preschool program. Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 100% of age-eligible students. The same year, secondary school enrollment was about 99% of age-eligible students. It is estimated that nearly all students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 11:1 in 2003; the ratio for secondary school was about 13:1. In 2003, private schools accounted for about 5% of primary school enrollment and 3.9% of secondary enrollment.

Sweden's six universities, all largely financed by the state, are at Uppsala (founded in 1477), Lund (1666), Stockholm (1877), Göteborg (1891), and Umea and Linköping (both completed in 1963). Uppsala and Lund have four faculties eachlaw, theology, medicine, and philosophy (arts and sciences). Stockholm has faculties of humanities, law, mathematics, and science; Göteborg, medicine and humanities. There are also more than two dozen specialized schools and institutions of university rank for such subjects as medicine, dentistry, pharmacology, veterinary science, music, economics, commerce, technology, agriculture, and forestry. Tuition is free, except for some special courses; most university students receive government loans to help them meet their living expenses.

Sweden has an active adult general education movement in which some three million persons participate each year. People's schools and other educational institutions give courses for all those who want to study. All the universities have extension divisions for general studies. There are 130 state-subsidized folk high schools for working adults that provide courses ranging in length from a few days to 80 weeks. In 2003, it was estimated that about 83% of the tertiary age population were enrolled in tertiary education programs. The adult literacy rate has been estimated at about 99%.

As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 7.7% of GDP, or 12.8% of total government expenditures.


The four major libraries, the Royal Library at Stockholm (three million volumes) and the university libraries of Uppsala (5.4 million), Lunds (3.2 million), and Göteborg (2.7 million), receive free copies of all Swedish publications. There are technical and other special libraries, all of which have an interlibrary loan scheme with the university libraries, the state-aided municipal libraries, and the 24 county libraries. The largest public library is the Stockholm Public Library which holds over 2.1 million books and over 150,000 materials of other media. The Stockholm Public Library supports 44 city branches, 60 hospital branches, 90 lending points in workplaces and correctional facilities, and bookmobile services. The Göteborg Public Library holds 1.6 million volumes. Altogether, the public library systems had a combined total of about 46.3 million volumes. The Swedish Library of Talking Books and Braille is a government program that works through local public libraries; founded in 1955, the library has over 86,500 talking book titles (in 50 languages) and over 12,000 books in Braille. The Swedish Authors' Fund administers a library loan compensation system that pays an author royalties each time a book is borrowed.

Most of the outstanding museums are in Stockholm. Especially renowned are the rich art collections of the Swedish National Art Museum and the sculptures of Carl Milles in the artist's former home at Millesgarden in Lidingö. In Stockholm are located the Swedish Museum of Natural History (founded 1739) and the National Museum of Science and Technology (founded 1924). The Aquaria Vatten Museum, opened in 1991, is a natural history museum that includes a shark aquarium, salmon ladder, and living rain forest. The Nobel Museum celebrates the life and work of Alfred Nobel and many of the Nobel Prize laureates; the Nobel Museum also houses the 15,000-volume private library of Alfred Nobel. Göteborg has a number of museums including the Göteborg Art Gallery and a maritime museum reflecting the interests of that city. The finest Swedish folk museum is in Skansen, near Stockholm. Göteborg also has a public affairs museum including an exhibit of the history of the East India Tea Company of Sweden. Lund has the Museum of Cultural History and the Museum of Zoology. The Victoria Museum for Egyptian Antiquities is in Uppsala.


In 2003, there were an estimated 736 mainline telephones for every 1,000 people. The same year, there were approximately 980 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people.

Sveriges Radio and Television operates several public broadcasting channels. There are several private commercial stations, including satellite and cable networks. As of 1999, there were a total of 5 AM and 360 FM radio stations and 163 television stations. In 2003, there were an estimated 2,811 radios and 965 television sets for every 1,000 people. About 246 of every 1,000 people were cable subscribers. Also in 2003, there were 621.3 personal computers for every 1,000 people and 573 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet. There were 2,354 secure Internet servers in the country in 2004.

The Swedish press is said to be the oldest in which censorship is legally forbidden. The first regular newspaper, Post-och Inrikes Tidningar, appeared in 1645 and is still published. The first daily was Norrköpings Tidningen (1758). In 2001, there were 169 daily newspapers and 455 weeklies.

News is drawn largely from the Swedish News Agency (Tidningarnas TelegrambyraTT), an agency owned by the Swedish press. The leading newspapers in Stockholm (with affiliation and circulation rates in 2005) were: Aftonbladet (Labor, 441,000), Expressen (liberal, 342,000), Dagens Nyheter (independent, 363,000), and Svenska Dagbladet (conservative, 179,000). In other regions, the leading papers in 2002 were: Göteborgs-Posten in Göteborg, (liberal, circulation 246,000), Idag Vast in Göteborg (172,800 in 2002), Sydsvenskan in Malmö (155,600 in 2002), Sydsvenska Dagbladet in Malmö (independent liberal, 136,000), GT in Göteborg (68,500 in 2002), Nerikes Allehanda in Örebro (68,000 in 2002), Upsala Nya Tidning in Uppsala (64,400 in 2002), Kvallsposten in Malmö (62,900 in 2002) and Nya Wermlands-Tidningen in Karlstad (conservative, 59,500 in 2002).


Almost all farmers are members of agricultural cooperatives, which buy supplies and sell products for the farmers and represent farmers' interests to state agencies. Over 300,000 farmers belong to a member body of the Federation of Swedish Farmers, a powerful organization that provides farmers with legal and tax advice as well as educational services on agricultural matters. There are two farm credit institutions, a dairies association, a meat marketing association, and an egg marketing association. The National Union of Swedish Farmers (formed in 1905) supplies its members with fertilizer, seeds, feeds, and other supplies and buys their crops.

The Federation of Swedish Industries (founded 1910) is active in promoting trade. Chambers of commerce operate in all the principal cities and towns. There are specialist industrial and trade associations such as those of the glass exporters and wood exporters. There are professional organizations in agriculture, archaeology, art, education, engineering, ethnology, geography, geology, law, literature, mathematics, medicine, music, science, and other fields. The Swedish Medical Association is a major physicians union.

The three most distinguished scholarly organizations are the Swedish Academy (founded 1786), the Royal Academy of Letters, History, and Antiquities (founded 1753), and the Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences (founded 1776). The Nobel Foundation administers the trust fund established by Swedish scientist and inventor Alfred Nobel (1833-96) and presents the annual Nobel Prizes. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences assists in awarding the annual Nobel Prizes for physics, chemistry, and economic sciences. The Swedish National Council for Cultural Affairs helps promote study in arts and culture, in part by serving as an advisory council for the national cultural budget. The Swedish P.E.N. Centre is based in Stockholm. There are several clubs and associations available for hobbyists and amateur participants in a variety of fields, such as the Gothenburg Ornithological Society.

Numerous national youth organizations include the Association of Young Catholics in Sweden, Center Party University Students Federation, Christian Democratic Youth Union, Good Templar Youth of Sweden, Liberal Student Federation, Swedish 4-H Youth, Junior Chamber. Swedish National Union of Students, Young Left of Sweden, YMCA/YWCA, and the Swedish Guide and Scout Council. Some youth councils are organized under the National Council of Swedish Youth Organizations. There are numerous sports associations promoting amateur competitions for athletes of all ages.

The Women's Front serves as an umbrella organization for groups campaigning for equal rights. There are strong women's groups within political parties. International organizations with national chapters include Greenpeace, Save the Children, Amnesty International, and the Red Cross.


Tourism, a major industry in Sweden, was stagnant in the 1990s due to a value-added tax on hotels, restaurants, and travel services. Since 2000, however, the industry has steadily grown.

Principal tourist sites include the Royal Palace in Stockholm, the "garden city" of Göteborg, the resort island of Öland off the Baltic coast, and the lake and mountain country in the north. Cultural centers in Stockholm are the Royal Opera, Royal Dramatic Theater, and Berwald Concert Hall. Popular recreational activities include football (soccer), polo, skiing, ice skating, swimming, mountain climbing, and gymnastics.

The number of foreign tourists to Sweden cannot be reliably ascertained because of uncontrolled tourist movements across borders within Scandinavia; statistics of Scandinavian visitors to Sweden have not been kept since 1951. However, tourist arrivals totaled 7,627,000 in 2003, when tourism receipts reached $6.5 billion. That year Sweden had 96,372 hotel rooms and 184,771 beds with a 34% occupancy rate. All visitors must have a valid passport as well as sufficient funds for their stay and an onward/return ticket. Citizens of 133 countries including the United Kingdom, Russia, and China are required to carry an entry visa. Citizens of Canada, the United States, Western European countries, and some other nations may enter Sweden with a valid passport and do not require a visa.

In 2005, the US Department of State estimated the cost of staying in Stockholm at $419 per day.


Esaias Tegnér (17821846), considered the national poet of Sweden, and Erik Gustaf Geijer (17831847), historian and poet, are the best-known Swedish writers of the early 19th century. A new impulse was given to literature by August Strindberg (18491912), a major literary figure whose powerful, socially oriented plays and stories reflected the advanced thought of the age. Selma Lagerlöf (18581940), who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1909, showed in her novels a depth of narrative genius reminiscent of the Norse sagas. Other Swedish winners of the Nobel Prize for literature were the novelist and poet Karl Gustav Verner von Heidenstam (18591940), in 1916; the novelist and short-story writer Pär Lagerkvist (18911974), in 1951; and the novelists Eyvind Johnson (19001976) and Harry Edmund Martinson (190478), who shared the 1974 award. A noted contemporary novelist is Vilhelm Moberg (18891974).

The painter, etcher, and sculptor Anders Leonhard Zorn (18601920) and the sculptor Carl Milles (18751955) are the greatest figures in Swedish art. The outstanding Swedish musician of the 19th century was Franz Adolf Berwald (17961868), composer of symphonies, operas, and chamber music. August Johan Söderman (183276) is considered the leading Swedish operatic composer. Two famous sopranos were Jenny Lind (182087), the "Swedish nightingale," and Christine (Kristina) Nilsson (18431921). Outstanding 20th-century musicians are the composers Wilhelm Stenhammar (18711927), Hugo Alfvén (18721960), Ture Rangström (18841947), Kurt Atterberg (18871974), Hilding Constantin Rosenberg (18921985), and the singers Jussi Björling (191060) and Birgit Nilsson (19182006).

Famous 18th-century scientists were the astronomer and physicist Anders Celsius (170544), who devised the temperature scale named after him; the chemist Karl Wilhelm Scheele (174286); and the botanist Carolus Linnaeus (Carl von Linné, 170778), who established the classification schemes of plants and animals named after him. Emanuel Swedenborg (16881772) was a scientist, philosopher, and religious writer whose followers founded a religious sect in his name.

Svante August Arrhenius (18591927), a great pioneer in physical chemistry, is renowned for his theory of electrolytic dissociation and his speculations in the field of cosmic physics; in 1903, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for chemistry. Other Swedish Nobel Prize winners in science or medicine are Gustaf Dalén (18691957), for his work in automatic beacons for coast lighting (1912); Allvar Gullstrand (18621930), for work on dioptics of the eye (1911); Karl Manne Georg Siegbahn (18861978), for work on X-ray spectroscopy (1924); The (Theodor) Svedberg (18841971), for work in colloidal chemistry (1926); Hans Karl August Simon von Euler-Chelpin (b.Augsburg, 18731964), for work in enzyme chemistry (1929); George Karl de Hevesy (b.Budapest, 18851966), for work on isotopes (1943); Arne Wilhelm Kaurin Tiselius (190271), for investigations in electrophoresis (1948); Axel Hugo Theodor Theorell (190382), for work on enzymes (1955); Ragnar Arthur Granit (Finland, 190091), for "discoveries in primary physiological and chemical visual processes in the eye" (1967); Hannes Olof Gösta Alfvén (190895), for work in magnetohydro-dynamics (1970); and Ulf von Euler-Chelpin (190583), for work on the treatment of nervous and mental disorders (1970). In addition, Kai M. Siegbahn (b.1918) shared the 1981 Nobel Prize in physics for developing spectroscopy; and Sune Karl Bergström (19162004) and Bengt Ingemar Samuelsson (b.1934) shared the 1982 prize in medicine for their research on prostaglandins. Bergström also served as chairman of the Nobel Foundation.

Three distinguished political economists are Karl Gunnar Myrdal (18981987), who was awarded the 1974 Nobel Prize in economic science for work in the theory of money and economic fluctuations and whose 1944 book An American Dilemma contributed to the overthrowing of legally sanctioned racial segregation in the United States; Bertil Gotthard Ohlin (18991979), who shared the 1977 prize for his contribution to international trade theory; and Dag Hammarskjöld (190561), who was secretary-general of the UN from 1953 until his death and was posthumously awarded the 1961 Nobel Prize for peace. Other Swedish winners of the Nobel Peace Prize were Klas Pontus Arnoldson (18441916), in 1908; Karl Hjalmar Branting (18601925), in 1921; Nathan Söderblom (Lars Olof Jonathan, 18661931), in 1930; and Alva Reimer Myrdal (190286), the wife of Gunnar Myrdal, in 1982.Swedish inventors who have done much to promote manufacturing and technical advances include the Swedish-American John Ericsson (180389), who pioneered the screw propeller and designed the first Western armored-turret warship, the Monitor; Alfred Nobel (183396), inventor of dynamite and progenitor of the Nobel Prizes; Lars Magnus Ericsson (18461926), who contributed much to the development of telephones; and Gustaf de Laval (18451913), who developed steam turbines and invented a centrifugal cream separator.

One of the most noted film directors of our times is Ingmar Bergman (b.1918); other noted directors were Victor Seastrom (Sjöström, 18791960) and Mauritz (Moshe) Stiller (b.Finland, 18831928). Famous screen personalities have included Greta Garbo (Greta Louisa Gustafsson, 190590) and Ingrid Bergman (191782). More recent stars of Swedish theater and films include Erland Josephson (b.1923), Max Von Sydow (b.1929), Ingrid Thulin (19292004), Harriet Andersson (b.1932), and Bibi Andersson (b.1935). Sweden's sports stars include five-time Wimbledon tennis champion Björn Borg (b.1956); Alpine skiing champion Ingemar Stenmark (b.1956); and eight-time Rolex Player of the Year (as of 2005) golfer Annika Sörenstam (b.1970).


Sweden has no territories or colonies.


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Esaiasson, Peter. Representation from Above: Members of Parliament and Representative Democracy in Sweden. Aldershot, England: Dartmouth, 1996.

Fant, Kenne. Alfred Nobel: A Biography. New York: Arcade, 1993.

International Smoking Statistics: A Collection of Historical Data from 30 Economically Developed Countries. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Micheletti, Michele. Civil Society and State Relations in Sweden. Brookfield, Vt.: Avebury, 1995.

Remaking the Welfare State: Swedish Urban Planning and Policy-Making in the 1990s. Edited by Ingemar Elander, Abdul Khakee, and Sune Sunesson. Brookfield, Vt.: Avebury, 1995.

Roberts, Michael. Gustavus Adolphus. 2nd ed. New York: Longman, 1992.

Sandelin, Bo (ed.). The History of Swedish Economic Thought. London; New York: Routledge, 1991.

Scobbie, Irene. Historical Dictionary of Sweden. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow, 1995.

Streissguth, Thomas. Raoul Wallenberg: Swedish Diplomat and Humanitarian. New York: Rosen, 2001.

Wessels, Wolfgang, Andreas Maurer, and Jürgan Mittag (eds.). Fifteen into One?: the European Union and Its Member States. New York: Palgrave, 2003.

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Basic Data
Official Country Name: Kingdom of Sweden
Region: Europe
Population: 8,873,052
Language(s): Swedish, Lapp, Finnish
Literacy Rate: 99%
Academic Year: August-June
Compulsory Schooling: 9 years
Public Expenditure on Education: 8.3%
Foreign Students in National Universities: 12,189
Libraries: 1,702
Educational Enrollment: Primary: 690,630
  Secondary: 829,295
  Higher: 275,217
Educational Enrollment Rate: Primary: 100%
  Secondary: 140%
  Higher: 50%
Teachers: Primary: 58,365
  Secondary: 78,732
  Higher: 33,498
Teacher-Student Ratio: Primary: 12:1
Female Enrollment Rate: Primary: 107%
  Secondary: 153%
  Higher: 57%

History & Background

Sweden is a Scandinavian nation of nine million people living in a country of 450,000 km in size. Many of the inhabitants live in cities in the warmer south. Much of the state, particularly in the arctic region, remains sparsely settled. Sweden's government has evolved over the centuries. It has changed over the years from an elected ruler to an absolute monarchy to the current government largely run by an elected parliament with a constitutional monarchy. In 2001, King Carl XVI Gustav survived an attempt by many voters in Parliament who wanted to do away with the monarchy altogether.

Sweden in the 1950s throughout the late 1970s had a standard of living that many civilized nations wanted to emulate. However, in the 1980s and 1990s, Sweden found itself battling high unemployment even as it wrestled with the problem of assimilating a fast-rising immigrant population. For a number of reasons, including a shift from a liberal parliament to a conservative parliament, the government of Sweden undertook reforms in every level of education in the early and mid-1990s, hoping to keep the literacy rate from plummeting and to increase the number of people with jobs. By 1995, Sweden's literacy rate reached 99 percent. In March of 2001, the country's employment situation approached a healthy state again, with only a 3.9 percent unemployment rate.

Sweden is a European country with a comparatively short history because of violent climactic changes many years ago that drove residents southward. The area that makes up today's Sweden, together with connected nations today called Scandinavia, emerged after the departure of the glaciers that had covered all terrain for millenniums. Once woods, vegetation, and grains emerged from the soil, predator and prey prowled the land, followed by early homo-sapiens hunters from the warmer lands to the south (in what is today Europe). Not until 100 B.C. did Sweden's climate warm enough to encourage wider settlement, approximately equaling today's climate by the eighth century. Thus, the culture and lifestyles of the people here lagged far behind Roman and Grecian civilizations.

That today's Swedes are so literate is intriguing, particularly because early Swedes were a non-literate people, leaving no written records. Information about these early Swedes comes from the observations of literate foreignersmainly the Roman conquerorsplus secrets that archaeologists have obtained digging in the earth for artifacts such as primitive hatchets and arrow tips.

For hundred of years Sweden was a country beset with widespread unrest. Most notably, chaotic conditions were caused by invasions of warlike peoples such as the Germanic tribes in the fourth and fifth centuries (A.D.). Not surprisingly, the Swedish language contains words drawn from the languages of its primitive, so-called "pagan" tribes, as well as Germanic and English words that show the influence of invader and missionary alike. The Swedish language is characterized as Indo-European, and it has much in common with Danish, Norwegian, and Icelandic.

Some Viking conquerors that invaded Europe came from parts of Sweden, as well as from Denmark. The early Christian missionaries (ninth through twelfth centuries) were intent on bringing their religion to serf and king alike in feudal Sweden, but they brought with them the gifts of reading and writing as they brought the native people through the process of conversion. The first schools in the country were cathedral schools established in the twelfth century and common in the thirteenth century.

By the reign of Eric IX in the twelfth century, Sweden had become a Christian nation and would become an official Lutheran country (under authority of the king) by the early seventeenth century.

Sweden's king united with the kingdoms of Denmark and Norway, late in the fourteenth century, under the Kalmar Union. Then, Sweden fell for a time under the domination of Denmark. The Danish King Christian II massacred many Swedes in 1520 in the city of Stockholm, including the assassination of a senator who was the father of the future Swedish King Gustavus I (1496-1560). Gustavus I, imprisoned by the Danes for a time until his escape, was elected king by the Swedish Riksdag (Parliament) in 1523. That event coincided with the secession of his nation from the Dane-controlled union and led, in 1527, to the founding of a national Protestant Church.

The Swedes built a powerful navy and became a dominant political power in Europe under Gustavus I, backing up demands with the use of force. Gustavus also used force to extricate his country from the economic tyranny of the Hansas, the powerful north German tradesmen dominating foreign trade who banded together in a federation of more than seventy cities under the feudal mercantile power known as the Hanseatic League.

Sweden was one of the later nations in Europe to begin schools of higher education. From the thirteenth century, the country's young scholars traveled to Paris, France; Prague, Czechoslovakia; Greifswald in Pomerania; or to Leipzig, Germany, for their studies at the university level. At last in 1477, the Swedes established the University of Uppsala with a charter granted by the Pope in Rome. Following the dissent of Martin Luther with some teachings of the Catholic Church posted on a Wittenberg church door in 1517, the Reformation swept across Sweden, leading to a strong interest in learning so that all citizens would become capable of reading the Bible. Lutheran teachings were especially popular with the nobility in Scandinavia, many of whom already were chafing at the confining regulations of the Church in Rome, as well as the church habit of taking properties it coveted.

Gustavus I defeated the Germanic city of Lübeck in 1537, which allowed Sweden to defeat the tyranny of the Hanseatic League and to emerge as an economic power in Northern Europe. At the height of his power, in 1544, Gustavus I ordered the cessation of the practice of electing a king in favor of succession to the crown by members of the Vasa family, starting with his male heir and son, Eric XIV.

In 1571, following the example of the spread of schools in Germany after the Reformation, Sweden passed legislation authorizing the establishment of grammar schools that the nation's youth could attend for eight years. Sweden's equivalent of secondary schools materialized in 1611. The state passed a law that added four additional years of education in selected cities that had cathedral schools.

Sweden entered a long and violent period of aggression toward other nations under King Gustavus II, better known as Gustavus Adolphus, who conducted an almost nonstop succession of wars during his time of rule from 1611 to 1632. The affairs of the country, at the height of Sweden's stay as a world power, were conducted by its chancellor, Count Axel Gustaffson Oxenstierna (1583-1654). Following Gustavus Adolphus' fall on the battlefield and early death, Count Oxenstierna wielded enormous power under the rule of Christina, daughter of Gustavus II, who never married. During her short reign, Christina was patron and backer of the arts, literature and scholarly endeavors, but her enlightened attitude toward learning was accompanied by near-diffidence toward affairs of state.

After she stepped down in 1654 to convert to Catholicism and to live in Rome, Christina's throne was taken over by her cousin King Charles X, although Count Oxenstierna remained a strong voice in national affairs. From 1655 to 1708, Sweden continued its path of aggression, winning a war against Denmark but suffering a staggering defeat in battle on the soil of Russia. (A century later, during the Napoleonic Wars, Sweden ceded Finland, its grand duchy, to Russia in 1809.)

The Swedish nation began to look to education as a civilizing and stabilizing force in the late eighteenth century. That was a time of national concern and political trauma following wars with Russia, Denmark, and Norway, and the 1792 political assassination of King Gustav III, an enlightened but contradictory and power-hungry despot, who spoke several languages and was passionate about world literature, while he was in attendance at a masked ball.

Literacy rates improved dramatically as the state emphasized the need to read and write. About half the population of Sweden was able to read by 1800. Nonetheless, Sweden's class-conscious society practiced a segregation of upper class children from those perceived as belonging to the lower class.

Sweden's last war was a confrontation with Norway in 1814. Since that time, most of two centuries, Sweden has stayed neutral in wartime. It replaced its lust for warfare with a zest for quality education.

In the 1820s, Swedish thinkers began to consider ways to reform schools in the nation, and perhaps the most important educational development in the nineteenth century was the decision to make education compulsory. The state, looking for even greater success in the development of an educated people, passed a law in 1842 requiring compulsory education of boys and girls. Sweden was a poor country then, and many of the 1.5 million who left the land for America and other nations in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries did so because hunger had become a daily nemesis. Emigration continued into 1930 but eventually lessened, as Sweden became an industrial power and an attractive state to dwell, following the close of the 1940s It also became a welfare state, guaranteeing citizens a free education and healthcare at citizen expense.

Under the reign of Karl XV (1859-72), a system of local self-government was adopted in 1862. Parliament then was reformed in 1866, becoming bicameral; that system lasted more than a century until Parliament became a unicameral system in 1971. The citizens of Sweden appointed members of Parliament via election. The elected assembly in 1866 was hardly representative of the Swedish population as a whole, and the nobility and special interest groups such as the Lutheran clergy were given high status. Nonetheless, those who made a living from the land, while generally not high in status, were unlikely to object given the harsh treatment of peasants and serfs in nearby Poland and Russia.

Although participation was not compulsory, in the nineteenth century Sweden's brightest pupils, selected by examinations, attended elite schools of learning. This was changed by the state in 1904 into a ten-year program divided into the primary and junior secondary school (realskola ) of six years, followed by four years in an upper secondary school referred to as the gymnasium.

At that time, a fifth of Sweden's population lived in Stockholm, the capital, and other cities, and many more were destined to move to urban pockets from rural areas to work in industry throughout the twentieth century; Swedish leaders thought the time was right for improvements in education. Swedish industry, communications, and government all found a place for educated or vocationally savvy youth. The twentieth century saw Sweden thrust from an agrarian economy into an industrialized society. Perhaps as a civilizing influence, throughout the twentieth century, Swedish schools at every level have emphasized theater, music, and the arts. This influence harkens back to theater-loving Gustav III, whose own assassination ironically later was the subject of a fictive opera by Verdi, "A Masked Ball."

Massive changes occurred in Sweden in the 1990s, as public opinion soured on the government after years of high unemployment, soaring taxes, and government welfare spending. After more than a half-century with socialists in the ruling party, the Moderates were voted into Parliament in 1991, with Carl Bildt as prime minister.

As of 2001, school and university decentralization continues to take the power to govern directly out of the government's hands and puts much decision-making directly into the hands of educators at the local level. The Swedish Parliament outlines its objectives for quality education and the education of teachers. Individual administrators at Swedish schools strive to fulfill those objectives. In the 1990s through 2001, many in Sweden talk about a need for further reforms. Although literacy is high, scores by Swedish youngsters on standardized tests have been disappointing when compared to scores of similar youths from other developed nations.

Constitutional & Legal Foundations

Sweden's Education Act mandates that all local municipalities make available preschool activities for infants and children one year to six years old. In addition, many municipalities also have private preschools operating in their area as well. Such schools are not compulsory, but many families choose to have their children admitted. The state's interest is to assure the safety and development of children, offering all an opportunity to secure the best education possible with the assistance of local authorities. The preprimary level of education is not graded.

The Swedish Parliament passed a statute in 1962, decreeing that students be compelled to attend a comprehensive school for nine years. Prior to that time, students were compelled to attend an elementary school of seven or eight years' duration and a junior secondary school or secondary school for girls.

The higher educational system in Sweden was dramatically overhauled again in 1989 and in the 1990s. Before these reforms, Parliament and the Ministry of Education and Science, with assistance of various national education boards, determined Sweden's educational policies.

After the reforms were implemented, these boardsthe National Board of Education (for compulsory schools) and the National Board of Universities and Collegeswere done away with in the early 1990 and the system of education was essentially decentralized. This gave Sweden's institutions of higher education more control and power over admissions, as well as increasing authority for self-government.

In the year 2001, Swedish students from seven to sixteen years old attend grundskola (compulsory school). Each municipality is responsible for the students in its district; students who wish to attend another municipality for its academic offerings may do so, and their own municipality pays the tuition. (This is similar to the U.S. system of vouchers). Swedish is mandatory from age seven up (although those natives who have another mother tongue other than Swedish can make that their compulsory language). English is mandatory when students reach ten years old; substitutions for other languages such as German or French can be made as students go into higher grades.

Educational Philosophy: Sweden's educational system stresses equal opportunity to get an education for all citizens. At every level of education, tuition is free, as in compulsory schools (grades one through nine) are all other school-related expenses. While the government sets standards, the burden to provide a quality education falls on smaller Swedish governing units known as municipalities.

Educational SystemOverview

Structure & Organization: Sweden's school system oversees the state's compulsory schools and voluntary schooling. Until the 1990s, the government directly controlled the schools. Reforms agreed upon by the state began to take place in the 1990s. Instead of governmentrun schools, a system of decentralization was put in place to give local authorities more voice in the running of schools. Ever since, the government has acted in an advisory role as the setter of academic standards for all schools to strive to reach.

Several significant reforms were enacted between 1995 and 2001. All vocational upper secondary schools must offer a three-year program, a full year more than prior schooling. Programs in secondary school and higher education allowed for greater self-sufficiency on the part of schools and less rigidity on the part of the government. Finally, institutes of higher education instituted improvements in choices available to students and in degree system requirements.

Areas under compulsory school are as varied as a statewide compulsory basic school system, schools for the Sáámi native peoples of northern Sweden, special schools for children with impaired hearing, sight, or speech, and compulsory schools for persons adjudged to be mentally handicapped. Sweden's voluntary schools make up such educational units as upper secondary school, education for mentally handicapped adults, and municipal adult education.

State schools do not charge for tuition or expenses related to education. The state assumes all costs for teaching materials, computers, media services, school meals, health care, and transportation to schools.

Sweden is a world leader in the establishment of low pupil to teacher ratios. Swedish primary schools, according to 1993 figures, have a 17:1 preprimary ratio, a 10:1 primary grade ratio and a 9:1 secondary school ratio of pupils to teacher.

Financial Aid to Students: Swedish citizens not only have a fundamental right to an education, but they have the reasonable expectation that the state's central government will do all in its power to pay for much of that education. The philosophy is that a well-educated citizenry is more likely to lead to a prosperous society that is low on crime and benefiting constantly from the fruits of its citizens' labors. Consequently, Sweden spends an astounding 8.3 percent of the Gross National Product on education, far more than most nations do.

Primary through secondary education is fully paid for by the government. At the level of higher education, for example, the government pays the tuition of its students up to approximately the age of forty-five. While it does not pay for living expenses and textbooks, it does make student aid such as grants and loans availablebased on the individual student's income, not that of a spouse or parent. There also are certain time restrictions that an applicant must follow. Most aid gets cut off after six years, although exceptions are sometimes made for students pursuing doctoral or professional degrees that often take many years to finish. Students also must show evidence of satisfactory progress toward a degree.

Not all Swedish students wish to attend universities in Sweden. In the event that a student pursues an education at a recognized foreign institute of higher learning, he or she may be eligible for government assistance.

Enrollment: Sweden's figures of enrollment demonstrate the country's great success in enrolling most of its population in classes. For example, 100 percent of all youngsters eligible for compulsory school at the primary level do attend. At the lower secondary level, also compulsory, 99 percent of males and 100 percent of females attend school. These figures are for 1990-1995.

With regard to higher education, according to NAE figures, the total number of undergraduate enrollments in 1997, the last year such figures were available, was 300,400 students.

The Academic Year: The school year at the primary and secondary levels in Sweden is broken into two terms. The two terms combined add up to forty weeks and must total 178 or more school days and twelve holidays. Students attend classes Monday through Friday. The fall term begins in late August and ends just before Christmas holiday season in December. The spring term starts in January and ends in June. There are some variations in the school calendar from one locale to another.

Attendance is compulsory up to age sixteen. Students attend a minimum of 178 days and a maximum of 190 days annually. Students attend the first two grades for six hours daily. Older grades require them to attend eight hours daily.

The academic year at institutes of higher learning in Sweden is divided into two semesters. Although there is no official religious break during the academic year at Christmas, lectures usually are suspended at that time. The autumn semester goes from mid-August to mid-January. The spring semester goes from mid-January to early June.

Courses & Qualifications: After Swedish undergraduate education was reformed, students were empowered to choose their path to graduation more independently and to have greater freedom to take course electives of interest to them. Courses taken in prescribed fashion at many universities are part of an educational program.

In spite of greater freedom, undergraduates adhere to a Degree Ordinance that sets forth requirements for courses to be taken depending upon the area of study. In general, colleges set forth requirements and recommendations when their faculties establish a curriculum that satisfies state standards for a quality education.

Depending upon the program, an undergraduate degree can take a student between two and five-and-a-half years to earn the first degree. A course may be as short as five weeks or as long as eighteen months. In general, students are expected to devote about forty hours per week to full-time study. One week of full-time study equals a single point. One semester of full-time study is the equivalent of twenty points. Many programs require undergraduates to successfully complete either a degree project or thesis.

In Sweden, professional and general degrees are two kinds of first degrees. The professional degrees, upon completion, satisfy requirements for specific professions such as medicine or teaching. The general degrees are these:

  • A two-year Diploma after studies amounting to at least 80 points
  • A three- or four-year degree representing the satisfactory attainment of 120 points or more for a Bachelor's degree. At least 60 points must be in the major subject for this degree. A thesis or major project is mandatory.
  • A Master's degree awarded for at least 160 points, representing at least four years of study, with a thesis and at least 80 points in the major subject.

Education for Ethnic Minorities: Sweden's population of nine million mainly speaks Swedish and is highly homogenous in many respects for centuries except for its pockets of nomadic tribes and Finns, as well as the twentieth century influx of immigrants.

Sweden's ethnic minorities may be divided into those peoples who are native to the land and those who have come to the country in search of a better life and opportunities in a nation long known for the general health of its economy. Ironically, challenges to that economy have come from the admitted immigrant groups.

First to be examined here are the native peoples or Lapps. Lapland is the area made up of Sweden, Norway, Finland and the former Soviet Union's Kola Peninsula where the Lapps or Laplanders live. This ethnic minority only is made up of approximately 65,000 people, perhaps 20,000 of whom live in Sweden, where they are known as the Sáámi. Those that dwell in Sweden make a living as reindeer herders and other occupations. Their native language is one of several related dialects described as Finno-Ugric.

Missionaries in the seventeenth century often forced Sáámi children to attend missionary schools whether the children and parents wanted an education or not. In 1632, for example, a school for Sáámi was established in Lycksele, Sweden. The hope was that natives could learn Swedish, develop as Christians, and that some would serve as missionaries among their people throughout Lappland.

The state established so-called nomad schools in 1913. The aim was to provide a basic education even as the children retained much of their own culture. Children are given the option of receiving an education in a state school or in the so-called Nomad schools.

In 2001, Sáámi children are able to choose between attending government Sámi schools or regular municipal nine-year-compulsory schools where they can also receive instruction in Sámi as well as Swedish. In 1950, a high school was constructed in Jokkmokk that offers courses in Sámi culture to natives and non-natives. Since 1974, offerings in Sámi were made available at the University of Umea and the University of Uppsala.

Owing to the influx of immigration that has led to the settlement of more than one million foreigners in Sweden, the Swedish for immigrants program is intended to provide a knowledge of Swedish as a second languageas well as a good introduction into the state's customs and society. All municipalities must make sure Swedish for immigrants' classes are made available to new adult immigrants. Often, one or more municipalities will combine their services to offer multiple class choices.

The National Agency for Education has taken a strong interest in the education and vocational training of immigrants and refugees, always stressing the rights of the child and a respect for native and immigrant cultures. The curricula stresses a respect for the values present in other cultures even as it prepares students to exist in a society different from their own.

While stressing the need to learn Swedish as a second language, the curriculum also stresses the need for non-native speakers to learn about and respect the culture of Sweden. Fluency in Sweden is stressed so that the non-native speakers can benefit fully from educational opportunities presented to them in the Swedish system of secondary education and higher education. The National Agency for Education takes a supervisory role to assure that municipality schools and private schools educate non-native-speaking children in accordance with all NAE rules and recommendations.

Technology in the Classroom: To assess the usage of computers in primary and secondary schools in Sweden, the National Agency for Education has conducted biannual surveys since 1993. According to the 1999 survey, the last year for which information is available, the number of computers purchased for use by administrators, faculty and pupils increased dramatically in the late 1990s, owing perhaps to the widespread use of the Internet. By 2001, many schools put up web sites that explored some of the educational programs and student extracurricular interests at these institutions.

In 1999, for example, the NAE reported the purchase of nearly 40 percent more computers compared to 1997, reducing the number of students sharing a single unit. Less dramatic but still impressive increases in computer purchases were also reported in 1999 by municipal and county upper secondary schoolsa 22 percent increase from 1997. Independent upper secondary schools increased their number of computers by 91 percent from 1997 to 1999, making one computer available for every three students.

Sweden also has come closer to the goal of assigning a computer to every schoolteacher. According to the NAE, six primary-secondary teachers share every computer, while only two upper secondary teachers share a computer. All teachers at the independent upper secondary schools are assigned their own computer.

Textbooks: At the higher education level, students assume the cost of their textbooks, which may be written in Swedish, or in some subject areas, in English.

Curriculum & Evaluation: Sweden has opted to standardize what is taught in its preprimary classes and in its compulsory schools up to the ninth year. This is done through the adoption of a formal curriculum for preschools and compulsory schools. The state approves a national syllabi and sets forth its formalized educational objectives.

Each school and municipality has a certain freedom in determining how those objectives are to be carried out, but accountability is ensured by evaluation of all pupils in their fifth and ninth years in compulsory school. For example, in rural areas, schools may consist not of single classes but rather several grades in a single school facility. There is no single teaching method preferred by the state.

Private Schools: In the eighteenth century, the general public had grown dissatisfied with church schools. A need arose for the formation of private schools, including specialty private schools for female and vocational education.

In the second half of the nineteenth century, however, the growing excellence of public primary and secondary schools caused private schools to lose some of the popularity they had enjoyed.

In the twentieth century, private schools received the benefit of a voucher system that has drawn interest from private school educators in the United States. The National Board of Education in 1991 took the responsibility for direct school management under the control of municipalities, and it gave parents a choice (in many urban locales) of either state schools or private schools for their child's education.

Of the some 850,000 pupils in Sweden, one percent attend one of only about 200 private schools in Sweden. These mainly are situated in the large urban population centers. The National Agency for Education grants these schools accreditation and makes sure they conform to the same regulations adhered to by public compulsory schools.

Students are not compelled to attend state schools if they attend a private, parochial school with comparable standards and requirements to state-mandated education.

Preprimary & Primary Education

Childcare, Preschool, & Nursery Schools: Sweden's push for educational reforms has included childcare and nursery schools since 1998. The state delegated responsibility for their supervision to the National Agency for Education (NAE). The NAE oversees childcare, including preschool children and nursery schools. The state also provides after-school childcare sites that look after children younger than seven years old, while their parents are at work or pursuing educational opportunities. The last state regulations for activities in after-school care were written in 1998.

Local constituencies follow goals for childcare and preschools established by the Swedish Parliament, the Riksdag. Thus, even allowing for individual needs of one locale from another, the government requires certain goals and procedures that remain consistent throughout the state. Responsibility for carrying out those objectives falls directly upon the National Agency for Education. To ensure future reforms and continuous updating as technology changes and new educational theories are considered, the NAE also is responsible for educational research and development.

Primary Education: In the seventeenth century, following Gustav Adolphus' attempts to improve and expand university education in Sweden, the nation imposed a sense of civic responsibility on local communities, asking them to provide elementary education for the well being of the citizenry. Church law limited the focus of the curriculum to reading and religious instruction, the purpose being more to elevate or save the souls of children than to elevate their minds. In 1842, the voluntary aspect of education was removed, and law introduced compulsory education. From that time, the curriculum became more expansive, and the focus no longer was on Bible readings by 1870, but on a broad range of academic subjects.

Compulsory primary education was established in 1842 for the earliest grades. One hundred years later, reformers worked to expand compulsory education to the age of 16. Since 1972-1973, primary education became compulsory for the first nine years of schooling, encompassing all of primary school and the first two years of secondary education. Some children begin primary school at age six, but it is only compulsory at age seven. The Education Act allows parents to choose either a public or private school for their children's compulsory stay in school.

Secondary Education

Under Gustav Adolphus, the reformer, the state began to support secondary schools known as the gymnasia with schools established in the towns of Västerääs. Sträängnääs, and Linkööping. These offered classes in classical languages, religion, the sciences, mathematics, and geography, along with optional local course offerings. They were preparatory classes intended to prepare students for rigorous university classes. Instead of generalists, scholars were specialists called senior masters. The language of instruction was Latin. Students learned to read and showed their mastery of a subject by memorizing and reciting material.

In the late nineteenth century, secondary education was shaped to prepare students for the intellectual rigors of university life. As secondary schools improved in quality, the dependence on private tutors, who were engaged by families wanting the best education for their children, lessened.

Grades seven through nine are compulsory and refer to Sweden's system of lower secondary education. Swedish school authorities often lump primary and lower secondary education together, referring to the first nine years of school.

Upper Secondary Education: Upper secondary schools are not compulsory. Nonetheless, approximately 98 percent of all students voluntarily continue schooling in the three-year program after they turn sixteen. State law compels Swedish local municipalities to provide an opportunity for upper secondary education without charge.

As of 2000, students going on to upper secondary education may choose from a wide variety of vocational and college preparatory programs. Students may attend upper secondary school until turning twenty. At that age, they would be required to seek an education through adult upper secondary education.

In 1994, the curriculum for upper secondary school was reformed. The Education Act defines the school's basic role and program objectives. Each municipality chooses an education plan.

In Sweden, there are sixteen national programs, providing a general education or the groundwork of preparation for advanced study. All national programs possess important core subjects such as English, mathematics, natural sciences, civics, Swedish and religious education. About 95 percent of Sweden belongs to the Lutheran Church, and the figurehead monarch of Sweden must belong to the Lutheran Church or abdicate.

These subjects are divided into courses. Depending on complexity and difficulty, courses may earn a student 50, 100, 150 or 200 points toward graduation. Courses are graded, and graduates fall into three categories: those who pass, who pass with distinction, and who pass with special distinction. Graduates are awarded the leaving certificate and a transcript summarizing courses taken and grades earned.

In addition to the above, upper secondary school is open to those with learning or physical disabilities that need additional time and teacher aid to complete all subjects in the curriculum successfully. Having fewer programs (such as college entrance subjects) than the aforementioned upper secondary school, the secondary schools for students with disabilities tend to offer programs more vocational in setup.

Pupils no longer are ranked against one another under the reformed system, but rather are measured in how well they fulfill goals for the course and obtain mastery of the subject. The National Agency for Education determines the standards to decide grades of fail, pass and pass with distinction for national courses. For local courses, the education board establishes fail, pass and pass distinctions with guidelines for each. Students may repeat failed courses once and, with special permission, twice. The grade goes on the final leaving certificate.

Higher Education

In the medieval ages, a universitas was quite unlike the sophisticated places of learning of modern times, amounting to a sort of guild of scholars with interest in learning. Back then, a universitas existed with a charter granted by the Catholic pope. Because of the charter, religious studies were always associated with these early educational gathering places that often amounted to study sessions in rented rooms. As merchants became successful in trade, many wanted their sons to gain social skills with other sons of influential men and to acquire knowledge of use throughout life. Society possessed a need for educated persons as clergy, secretaries to courts, physicians and other professional positions.

The first universities in France, Germany, England and Italy were founded when feudalism was at its height, unlike the founding of the University of Uppsala in 1477, a strong feeling of national pride resulted in an attempt to collect and organize the historical records of Sweden. The best known historian of the day was the scholar and university teacher Ericus Olai.

The university received little support and actually folded in the sixteenth century (1510) under Gustavus Vasa, then was reopened, with little additional support until early in the seventeenth century when there was perceived a need for educated public servants. The university in 1595 reopened and had no connection to Rome.

Gustav Adolphus undertook a reform of the University of Uppsala, in part to halt the flow of young scholars out of the country who had to seek an education in other countries. The university received a large endowment from Gustav Adolph, increasing the faculty size and curriculum offerings. At first the main reforms were in the subject areas of theology, accounting and philosophy. Sweden took the important step of adding a medical school in 1663. Also in the seventeenth century, a law division was offered.

According to the writings of historian Franklin D. Scott, even some peasant lads were permitted to obtain a university language in the seventeenth century; they paid their way by begging and by singing.

Other important institutions of higher education followed. Universities were built at Dorpat in 1632, Åbo in 1640, and Lund in 1668.

The Swedish state has, from the inception of higher education in the country, taken governing authority and responsibility for the education of its students. Even two former private universities, the University of Gothenburg and the University of Stockholm, respectively became state universities in 1954 and 1960.

The higher education system was extensively reformed in 1977. Nearly all postsecondary education was included in a single system, as the state created a uniform system that reached every level of postsecondary tertiary education. Reforms in 1977 and 1979 established broader policies for higher education, making entrance requirements into many study specialties far more rigorous than they had been.

In general, Swedish schools of higher education became far more selective. Higher Education programs were categorized into five specialties: administration and economics; technology; teaching, healthcare and medicine; and cultural work and social care. There also was greater emphasis on increasing the research component in schools of higher education. These reforms were the result of nine years of planning and discussion that followed recommendations by a 1968 higher-education fact-finding committee.

Another reform established by the government in 1977 was a cutoff point for the number of students that could be accepted by schools of higher learning. The decision on where to draw the line on the number of acceptances passed from the government to the institutions themselves during the transition to autonomy status during the 1993-1994 school year. Institutions were given some leeway to accept more students than the ceiling calls for if the institution can demonstrate it does so without relaxing its standards for a quality education for all students.

Both government or institutionally controlled schools are free of tuition in Sweden. That makes universities and colleges competitive since they must limit themselves to a certain number of acceptances each year. The aforementioned changes in the administration of institutes of higher education in the 1990s also resulted in the various institutions of higher education becoming generally more competitive. Also outlined were ways that independent colleges and universities can be established with the authority from the state to grant degrees.

The reforms also expanded the system of electives for students, giving those enrolled more flexibility in choosing studies reflecting their own professional and cultural interests. After the Swedish Parliament adopted reforms in 1992, the following year the Higher Education Act governed the system. The reforms led to a 50 percent increase in student enrollments in less than a decade. As of 1996-1997, just under one-third (30 percent) of Swedish upper school graduates attended a Swedish university or college within five years after finishing their secondary schooling, according to figures supplied by the Swedish Embassy in the United States. First-time enrollments annually reach 65,000.

Female students enroll in slightly higher numbers for undergraduate studies than do male students, according to 1996-1997 enrollment figures. In 1996-1997, some 57 percent of all higher education students at the undergraduate level were female for a total of 300,400. However, at the postgraduate level, women only made up 37 percent of all students, numbering approximately 17,000 females. The figures for undergraduate and postgraduate schooling include part- and full-time studies.

Instruction at the higher education level often is in lecture format to hundreds of students, as well as in seminars of about thirty students. The language of instruction is usually Swedish. Much course literature is in English, however.

Admissions: Swedish institutions of higher education require students to show evidence of completion of certain preliminary requirements. In addition to basic qualifications that are the same or similar at all higher education institutions, there are special qualifications and requirements for many specialties and programs. Basic requirements are certain standards set for all applicants. In general, students meet requirements if they hold a diploma from a Swedish upper secondary school or if they have a mastery of Swedish and equivalent qualifications from a foreign secondary institution. Applicants from another country may need to take and pass an intensive preparatory course in Swedish. Also requisite is a reading and speaking knowledge of English.

A certain number of admittance slots are held for new students. If applicants exceed places, selection is made on the basis of upper secondary grades or a voluntary national university aptitude test. For areas such as medicine, special tests of skills and interviews may be required.

Student Unions: It is mandatory for all students enrolled at Swedish institutions of higher learning to join student unions. These associations are dues-supported. Reminiscent of (though little resembling) trade guilds of the medieval era, these latter-day unions work to benefit students and to serve their interests. The unions have elected officials that give the students a voice in the state's educational system. They provide students with recreational, social, and visiting speaker opportunities. They also provide some welfare benefits at a time when student opportunities to earn an income are lower than they will be following graduation.

Nationally, the majority of unions belong to an umbrella group known as the National Association of Student Unions (NASU). NASU in 2001 serves approximately 200,000 students in Sweden.

Healthcare & Disabled Students in Higher Education: All citizens in Sweden are entitled to medical care paid for by the government. In addition, each university and college operates health centers with healthcare professionals on staff.

Students with disabilities are given special attention by Swedish universities, and in recent years there have been modifications of facilities on most or all campuses to meet the requirements of students with special needs. Universities are required by the government to apportion up to 15 percent of annual undergraduate expenditures to meet the needs of the disabled. Other funding options from the government and private sources also are available to institutions of higher learning.

The government maintains a central office to coordinate the disbursement of state funds benefiting disabled students that are awarded institutes of higher education. The national coordinating office is located on the campus of Stockholm University.

Academic Appointments: Since the 1993-1994 academic year, when institutes of higher education were given great autonomy by the state, individual institutions received complete authority to appoint staff and establish teaching chairs. The state, through the Higher Education Ordinance, continued to mandate the categories of academic appointments. Also, following procedures established by the state in 1986, academic duties may include any or all of the following responsibilities: teaching, research, counseling, educational and administrative duties.

University academic appointments are state civil-servant positions. These appointments under four categories in descending order of importance: professors, senior lecturers, lecturers and research assistants.

  • Professors' main responsibilities are to research and supervise post-graduate studies; they also perform some teaching. Research has held an elevated place in the Swedish national consciousness for hundreds of years. In the eighteenth century, the esteemed natural scientist Carolus Linnæus (1707-78) was awarded a seat in the Swedish House of Nobility. Also in the eighteenth century, astronomer and mathematician Anders Celsius (1701-44) was the Swede who created the Centigrade measurement system.
  • Senior lecturers hold the doctorate and are mainly engaged in undergraduate teaching and research.
  • Lecturer appointments do not mandate that the candidate hold a doctorate. All faculty involved in teaching must demonstrate satisfactory teaching skills to obtain an appointment. Research assistants are often doctoral students or graduates seeking a full-time teaching position.

Swedish higher education is under the supervision of the Ministry of Education and Science with one main exception. That exception is: The University of Agricultural Sciences is supervised by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries.

Economic Aspects of Higher Education: In 1993, Sweden's government introduced sweeping changes in the way it disburses funds for undergraduate education. The new system is said to be results-oriented. What that means, in essence, is that continued and additional funding is given out by state agencies based upon specified criteria met or exceeded by colleges and universities. More than half (60 percent) of the annual government grant is drawn up based upon the number of credit points earned by students. The rest (40 percent) is directly dependent upon the number of full-time students enrolled at a particular college or university.

After the Government decides upon amounts of aid based on this formula, moneys are paid by the state to each college and university. Money for post-graduate education and research are paid through one funding source. Undergraduate education is paid for through another source. Parliament also pays for such expenses as campus upkeep, classroom furniture, and updated equipment.

The entire maximum allotment that an institution might receive is legally set up in a three-year "education task contract" agreed upon by the Ministry of Education and Science and each institution.

Postgraduate Education: Postgraduate education is offered by a relatively small number of Swedish universities (for example, Gothenburg, Linkööping, Lund, Stockholm, Umeää, and Uppsala), the Karolinska Institute (Stockholm), Luleää University of Technology, the Royal Institute of Technology (Stockholm), the Stockholm School of Economics, Chalmers University of Technology (Gothenburg), the University College of Jöönköping, and the University of Agricultural Sciences (Uppsala).

Postgraduate education requires an applicant to have completed an undergraduate program equivalent to at least three years' full-time study. Admission to a specialty requires an applicant to have completed at least sixty points in the specialty subject. A faculty admission board assesses each applicant's potential to complete doctoral studies.

Postgraduate education leading to the doctorate is generally the equivalent of four years' study, coursework, and dissertation research and writing. The doctoral student is assisted by a committee and senior faculty members who provide individual supervision. The dissertation must receive a defense and is graded pass or fail.

In place of doctoral studies, some students pursue a licentiate degree which is a research degree normally taking two years, the equivalent of a master's degree in the United States. Some who get this degree later elect to pursue doctoral study as well.

Many generous means of support are available for students pursuing postgraduate studies. Money is channeled to university faculties to be given to students for fellowships or teaching assistantships that can be renewed up to four years. Other money for qualified students can be obtained by working on funded research projects.

Vocational Education: Vocational education in Sweden began long before it was established as an industrialized nation. Christopher Polhem, an engineer, is credited with being the first to begin a technical school in 1697.

Vocational education received considerable state support in the 1940s. Following World War II, vocational education began to fall under the province of the state's authorities, and by the 1970s, this system was fully implemented in Sweden. During the late 1980s, the central government was fully responsible for vocational education.

As of 1993-1994, while the state continued to stress the importance of quality vocational education, it ceded power to supervise to municipalities as education across the board became decentralized, and private industry provided considerable financial support.

In the 1990s, as the manufacturing industry changed rapidly, vocational improvements in education and training had to be made to keep up. For a time, industry officials had criticized vocational education, claiming that a gap existed between the skills employees needed to possess and those they polished in schools. Various interest groups put pressure on school authorities in various municipalities to introduce improvements in the curriculum.

Perhaps the biggest improvement in the late 1980s and early 1990s was a shift from the two-year curriculum emphasizing practical skills in workshops without many apprenticeship opportunities, to a three-year industrial program combining practical knowledge with extensive theoretical knowledge and the ability to solve problems at work.

In 2001, Sweden's industrial curriculum continues to be a three-year, full-time, upper secondary education program. In addition to required classes, students are offered some optional classes to pursue subjects of their greatest interest and internship or apprenticeship opportunities on the job. Swedish commentators have remarked how the reforms have given the labor market a steady supply of skilled workers.

Administration, Finance & Educational Research

Following Sweden's decentralization of its education system, that system of education was assigned to the Ministry of Education and Science, and the National Agency for Education Skolverket was named to serve as the administrative unit for the schools.

The National Agency for Education came into existence in Sweden in 1991. The bureaucratic agency was formed to fill such needs as childcare oversight as the state moved to decentralize its schools over a ten-year period that was completed in July 2001.

The state moved to give local municipalities and systems both autonomy and responsibility for their schools. Local schools reorganized, controlled their staffing, and tightly watched over resources such as the adoption of computers and other technology into the schools. Each school also submits its own plan of operation after it has been considered and voted upon by the local municipal council or other local government body. Such a plan is a comprehensive look at school operations, school objectives, and the characteristics of the students within the local system. There also is a needs assessment based on the scores and performances of the district students.

Schools follow syllabi and evaluation standards developed by the National Agency for Education. NAE administrators are also available for comment or consultation as they continuously update data and survey information about Sweden's schools that help local administrators make informed choices. Schools traditionally have received generous funding from the state in the past. Local organizations of the NAE track educational developments and successes that other school districts may emulate, and a free exchange of ideas among schools is encouraged. Parent input is encouraged, and surveys are taken of parents, teachers, administrators and students to ascertain changing attitudes and to track areas of satisfaction and dissatisfaction within Swedish school systems.

Local educational units are fully responsible and held accountable for decisions. The NAE oversees evaluations of schools that are conducted by authorities in education deemed to have the necessary qualifications for helping to determine strengths and weaknesses of these programs. The consultants, in reports to the NAE, also make evaluations and recommendations for ways to improve systems judged to be flawed in some area. Such evaluations are then followed up, and the NAE notes areas in which progress toward reform has been made.

The main administrative offices of the NAE are located in Stockholm. In the year 2001, an additional eleven branch officers were located strategically throughout the country for convenient access by local school administrators and other educators. Each local branch is directly responsible for supervising schools and childcare within its jurisdiction. Local branches may be found in the Swedish communities of Gothenburg, Karlstad, Linköping, Luleå, Lund, Skövde, Stockholm, Sundsvall, Umeå, Uppsala and Vääxjö.

In addition to evaluation and bureaucratic functions, the NAE also funds research proposals made by university educators and researchers. The NAE does not function itself as a research facility. The agency does make an effort to see that research is conducted that is representative of the various specializations reflected in the curriculum of Swedish schools. It also puts on conferences and intensive workshops for educators.

Mobbing: Since the late 1990s, the NAE and local schools have taken a far more serious examination of a bullying practice referred to as mobbing in Sweden, as well as other forms of abuse. In 1999, a Swedish district court ordered the municipality of Grums to pay court costs and damages to a woman, 20, who years before dropped out of school after being mobbed by her peers. The ruling was interpreted to mean that school districts had to show that administrators had taken proper precautions to monitor, stop, and punish mobbing abuses in school.

Teaching Profession

Likely the first attempt to raise professional standards for teachers arose in 1803. The state required teachers to pass a university examination to demonstrate proficiency in academic studies in order to teach. The first teacher-training center was instituted in 1842, coinciding with a perceived need for professionals that would be needed in the classroom with the passage of mandatory school attendance by law. Localities known as parishes were required to engage the services of one or more trained individuals as teachers. Before 1842, most of Sweden's teachers were male and were often priests.

Sweeping changes with regard to the qualifications of teachers took place in 1977. Before that year, the educational institutions for the training of primary school teachers were not a part of the government-run system of higher education. Qualifications for secondary school teachers were more stringent than those imposed on the primary teachers. The secondary teachers were required to obtain a full university degree, almost always majoring in two subjects that often became the subjects they taught their students, plus one additional year while taking required training in education.

In 1977, after the reforms, both primary and secondary teachers took their work in a recognized institution or education institute belonging to Sweden's system of higher education. In addition, potential teachers in specialties such as art, music, and physical education (as they had before 1977) went to special places offering training to those seeking an expertise in order to teach.

Until sweeping improvements in teacher education and certification were introduced in 1988, there were large-scale differences between the amount and quality of training of teachers in Sweden at the three main levels of compulsory schools.

  • The first level was the lågstadielärare, or lower-level teachers, requiring 100 credit points for a certificate in primary education, grades one through three.
  • The next level was the mellanstadieläärare, or intermediate grade teachers, requiring 120 credit points for a Bachelor of Education in Primary Education, grades four through six.
  • The third level was äämneslärare, or teachers for the upper level, also known as lower secondary school. The level required between 160 and 180 credit points. The degree was Master of Arts or Master of Science with a notation as to subject specialty and specialties.
  • Outside these levels, there were teaching positions that came under the categories of the arts and practical subjects. These had additional requirements for credit points set by the state.

More changes in the requirements for teachers to successfully gain authorization to teach in Sweden were passed by the state in 1988. These reforms particularly addressed teachers in compulsory schools. Among the requirements, teachers needed to:

  • Take and pass one year of education courses to satisfy a 40-point course requirement. Some students take the requirement in a single year or sometimes even longer than one year should unusual circumstances dictate. Some take the required coursework a few points each year while attending an institute of higher learning until the 40-point total is reached. In Sweden, one week of full-time studies earns one poäng or credit point, and 40 points is one year's required work in pedagogy and practice teaching for teacher certification.
  • These courses, referred to as praktisk-pedagogisk utbildning, include teacher training, practice teaching, and pedagogy.

Behind all this training is the reasoning that those who seek a teaching career in Sweden must be prepared to satisfy rigorous requirement for teacher certification. Teachers form a sort of professional guild in this nation, and those whose university degrees were earned with a teaching career specifically in mind have traditionally been chosen by the government for teaching positions.

However, with decentralization going into effect in 2001, and earlier reforms in place as early as 1992, the headmasters or other administrative heads of local schools have been the taking control of the teaching profession from government. Thus, regulations need not be so restrictive as to, for example, keep potential teachers out of the classroom who have made this professional decision later in life after already having one successful career. Potential employers can evaluate a teaching candidate's curriculum and determine if this person's experiences and academic preparation make him a good candidate for the position or not.

In 2000, the agency in charge of evaluating the credentials of non-Swedish applicants and applicants for permanent teacher certification is the National Agency for Higher Education (NAHE). Essentially, the NAHE examines the qualifications and Swedish language competency of those who apply for certification, determining whether the candidate roughly measures up to those teachers who obtain teacher certification through standard means of a diploma from an accredited institution offering training for teachers.

Numerous important teacher education reforms were implemented nationwide on July 1, 2001. These were part of a government bill passed by the Swedish Riksdag (parliament) in October, 2000. Of utmost importance for reducing bureaucracy, the practice of awarding eight separate teaching degrees was ended, and henceforth only one degree is to be awarded with two minor exceptions. The separate-degree exceptions are these two only: the Diploma of Education for the Folk High School and the Diploma of Education in Aviation.Although there is one diploma, there are some important differences in the credit points that teachers must take. Preschool, recreation, and compulsory school teachers of lower grades must take 140 credit points, the equivalent of 3.5 years of study. Music teachers take 160 hours. Compulsory school teachers of the higher grades must take 180 credit points.

Those who successfully complete Sweden's teacher education are awarded a diploma specifying specialization and status of qualification. The reforms reflected the desire of state authorities to award a diploma that required all candidates to demonstrate mastery of certain knowledge area in common, including the field of teacher education. To that end, students in common will take a maximum of sixty such credit hours, representing the equivalent of 1.5 years' coursework. The remaining coursework reflects the specialization and/or special study areas, including the requirement that students satisfy either a thesis or special project in order to graduate with a teaching credential.

Teachers already practicing can have access to the new teacher requirements through coursework available through traditional academic studies or through distance education. Rather than lock students into studies for life, the program allows students to qualify for new areas of specialization after taking the requisite additional course-work. The proposed requirements will allow for some individual variances in teacher preparation at the various institutions of study.

Nonformal Education

Labor market training offers vocational or jobrelated education for the unemployed. The state apportions grant moneys to the National Labor Market Board. That board disperses the funds to various municipal labor boards or employment offices. Such training is usually formal and serves the needs of unemployed workers and the business community.

Training is also available for workers who are trying to enhance their value in the workplace or who find their skills and knowledge in areas such as technology not equal to the demands of the workplace. To meet company needs, many businesses offer training to their employees on-site or at various vocational and higher education sites. In addition, some private enterprise companies offer training packages to business, and some consultants offer their services to train employees on site.

Adult Education: Adult education in Sweden is a sophisticated educational enterprise run by the state. It is intended to provide greater competence in the workplace, greater cultural and academic preparation, and life satisfaction. It includes education for the ordinary adult population, as well as for immigrants and adults with mental handicaps.

Reforms in municipal adult education allowed adults without degrees to pursue basic and/or upper secondary adult education. Founded in 1968, the program was expanded in 1994. The basic adult education provides equivalency to the nine-year compulsory basic school and can be used by the student to go on to further study. Adult basic education allows students to proceed at their own pace, taking into consideration that students may have learning disabilities or commitments to job and/or family. Successful graduates are entitled to a diploma or "leaving certificate" that attests to proficiency having been obtained in the core curriculum of Swedish (or Swedish as a Second Language), English, mathematics and civics. Additional core subjects in which proficiency was achieved through successful completion of course-work also will be printed on the leaving certificate.

As of July 1994, adults who wish to pursue a leaving certificate in upper secondary schooling must pursue the same curriculum and syllabi offered to students in the ordinary, teen and young adult upper secondary schooling program. There are some differences in the two programs, however, with regard to the material studied and stressed, depending on the municipality where upper secondary schooling is pursued, according to state regulations. The adult program requires 1,420 upper secondary schoolpoints for a leaving certificate.

Some adult education classes provide no diploma, offering instead supplementary training for a new work position such as computer or technical training. These programs typically are offered for one year or less and can make a worker more skilled or eligible for a work promotion. For example, folk high schools and adult education associations offer learning and cultural or recreational opportunities in an educational setting. The Council for Popular Adult Education administers state grants and evaluates such programs.

Adult Education for the Mentally Disabled: Offering educational opportunities for adults with mental disabilities, this educational program offers a curriculum identical to regular adult upper secondary education, but its syllabi are geared to the capabilities of mentally disabled adults. Students may thus get a compulsory school equivalency certificate or gain vocational training, as the need may be.

Distance Learning: Distance learning, previously delivered in the form of correspondence courses or courses offered via television, has taken a new turn, particularly in Sweden's far-flung rural sections, with computerbased coursework. Many state and a few private institutions of higher education offer courses that can be taken by adults regardless of where they reside or whether or not they have family and work obligations. In addition to home computers and their electronic mail systems, materials for courses and course assignments are transmitted with the aid of fax machine and interactive video. The Swedish government has put considerable resources into the development of distance learning course options for the future.

Two National Schools for Adults, one in Norrkööping and one in Härnosand, have made particular strides in making distance education a reality for numerous adults in Sweden. The schools are particularly valuable in that they offer adult education to persons who live too far from a municipality to take adult education courses in residence. The latter programs may require part of a term to be spent in residence, although the primary learning is done at home.


Because Sweden has instituted a statewide system of school choice between state-run and private schools, much of the world, particularly the United States, is keeping close tabs on the Swedish educational system to learn from its successes and failures. High taxes led to a shift in the 1990s from a strictly socialistic government that had existed more than 50 years to one that is highly conservative.

As a result, Sweden's relatively small number of private schools and universities may expand in number in the future. State-run schools very well may slash budgets as the push to lower national taxes continues. Swedish education officials now have put responsibility for upholding standards into the hands of local municipalities. Whether this will result in uneven levels of educational quality from municipality to municipality or even higher accomplishments from all students is a matter of debate. Nonetheless, Swedish officials have been most concerned because the academic test scores of primary and secondary students have slipped when compared to the scores of youth in other developed nations.


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Hank Nuwer

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Kingdom of Sweden

Major Cities:
Stockholm, Göteborg, Malmö, Uppsala

Other Cities:
Gävle, Halmstad, Helsingborg, Jönköping, Karlstad, Kristianstad, Landskrona, Linköping, Norrköping, Örebro, Västerås


This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report 1999 for Sweden. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at for the most recent information available on travel to this country.


Long isolated in the far North, SWEDEN is a unique society: beginning in 1932, the Social Democrats, the trade union movement and Swedish business built a comprehensive social welfare structure in which every third Swedish worker is a government employee. Nearly 90 percent of industrial production is in private hands, however, and the Swedish economy is strongly oriented toward foreign trade. Neutral since the time of the Napoleonic Wars, Sweden maintained an activist foreign policy that emphasized multilateral diplomacy. The Swedes spoke of a "Swedish Model"a "third way" equidistant between the capitalist West and the Communist East. But while about 85 percent of the work force still belongs to trade unions and social benefits still astound Americans, much that once characterized Swedish domestic and foreign policy is changing fast.

Since the end of the Cold War the Swedes have taken a primary role in the Baltic region, taking the lead in the Council of Baltic Sea States and actively supporting their Baltic neighbors. Sweden joined NATO's Partnership for Peace (PFP) and has placed hundreds of combat troops under NATO command in Bosnia. Sweden is a member of the UN Security Council through 1998.

A change with lasting consequences for Sweden was the decision to join the EU in January 1995. Trade policy is now negotiated in Brussels and Sweden coordinates foreign and security policy with other EU states. Nonetheless, Sweden is one of only three EU countries that did not join the common currency, the Euro.

Within Sweden itself, the severe economic downtown of the early 1990s saw real unemployment peak at 14 percent, compared to a post-war average of under 3 percent. The non-socialist government elected in 1991 reduced some taxes and the growth of social programs was stopped. But when unemployment remained stubbornly high, the voters in 1994 and again in 1998 turned again to the familiar Social Democrats. Swedish economic planners now face the greatest challenge to meeting the goal of full employment since the Depression. Social policy has also grown more complicated with the pluralization of Swedish society.

With a visit to Stockholm you will find a sophisticated city environment surrounded by beautiful countryside. Stockholm lies near a unique archipelago with thousands of islands accessible by private boats or ferries. The cost of basic goods and services in Sweden is high, but state subsidies put a wide range of cultural and recreational activities within reach of everyone.



Stockholm is Sweden's largest city. Founded in 1250, it has been Sweden's principal city since the time of King Gustav Vasa in the early 1500s. The ancient walls have long since disappeared, and many of the old houses have been renovated. The medieval city plan can be seen in the narrow, winding cobblestone streets and small squares of Gamla Stan (Old Town). Reminders of Sweden's period as a great power in the 17th and 18th centuries are the Royal Palace and the House of Nobilities. Other historic landmarks are the Stock Exchange, the Foreign Ministry, the Royal Opera House, and the old Riksdag or Parliament building. The burial place of Sweden's nobility, the Riddarholmen Church, dates from the city's beginnings. Central Stockholm has a turn-of-the-century appearance, but modern apartment houses rise on Stockholm's outskirts. In the suburbs are many municipal housing projects; large, utilitarian apartment houses interspersed with grass and play areas.


Stockholm regularly ranks among near the top in surveys of the most expensive cities for business travelers, and new arrivals face a series of surprises the first time they pay for some familiar item. By watching costs and adjusting spending habits, however, individuals can enjoy the high standard of living for which Sweden is also well known. The Swedish Government has used tax policy actively over the past 50 years as a tool for directing public consumption. As a rule of thumb, you can count on goods and services that are considered good for society to be relatively inexpensive in Sweden and those that are deemed detrimental to be costly. Public transport, education, the performing arts, and public recreation are relatively inexpensive. The price of alcohol, tobacco, and parking tickets are legendary high. Maintaining a private car costs more than it does in Washington, DC, but maintaining a boat costs less. Books, records, and CDs cost double what they do in the U.S., but more than 100 libraries in Stockholm lend them by the month for free. In general, shop for clothes, cosmetics, and durable goods before arrival.

One high cost expenditure that is impossible to avoid is food. High-quality food of every type is available in Stockholm. Fish and meat of all varieties are available on the local market, although meat cuts differ from those in the U.S. Fresh fruits and vegetables are imported to the Swedish market from around the world. Throughout the winter, supplies of bananas, apples, pears, plums, grapes, pineapples, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes, broccoli, carrots, mushrooms, and endive are available. Excellent dairy products, including a large variety of cheeses are always available, and canned goods of every description can be purchased. Swedish frozen foods include orange juice, peas, spinach, broccoli, chicken, fish, and prepared dishes. Supermarkets are similar though generally smaller than those in the U.S.

Swedes keep traditions that often are centered around the preparation of special foods: crayfish in August, fresh lamb in September, goose on St. Martin's Day, lutefish and Jansson's Temptation at Christmas. In recent years, new immigrants have brought with them both foods and food stores, and new traditions have sprung up. For example, many observe the old custom of pea soup and pancakes on Thursdays; others now line up to meet the air shipment of fresh tropical fruits at the Thai grocery store.


Men: Men need medium weight suits, an overcoat, raincoat, hat, warm gloves and scarves, and over-shoes or boots. American-style suits shirts, ties, socks, and underwear are available on the local market but at much higher prices than in the U.S. Tailor-made suits are available in Stockholm at prices comparable to the U.S. Sports gear and casual wear are widely available. All types of shoes are available at prices higher than in the U.S.

Women: Women need a good supply of warm dresses, slacks, sweaters, and coats, since they are worn about 9 months of the year. Boots or galoshes are worn regularly between November and April. Lined boots and galoshes, as well as good quality rain, and snow outfits are readily available in Stockholm, but are more expensive than Stateside prices. Warm gloves, scarves, and caps covering the ears for winter are also available locally. Well cut and tailored dresses, suits, and coats are in the medium-to high-price range.

Although summers are not usually hot, bring summer clothes for the short summer season and for travel. Swedish shoe lasts are different from those in America, and some women have difficulty finding shoes that fit. Fashionable European shoes are widely stocked.

Good fur coats, ready-made or made-to-order, are not considered a luxury in Sweden. They are available at relatively moderate prices throughout Scandinavia.

Children: Children's clothing is available in wide variety. American blue jeans and sneakers are popular but expensive. Rain gear, clogs, boots, and winter outerwear are a relatively good buy locally. Narrow shoe sizes are difficult to find.

Supplies and Services

Almost everything is available in Stockholm but generally at higher prices. Stores stock many familiar brands, but you may wish to bring a supply of special cosmetics, hair preparations, and drugstore items.

Commercial dry-cleaning, shoe repair, and services in general are readily available, but at a higher price and with a longer wait than in the U.S. Hairdressing services are similar to those in the U.S.

Domestic Help

Daytime babysitters can be difficult to find for preschool children. Some families hire an au pair to help with the children and housework. Foreign domestic help traveling to work in Sweden must possess an employment visa in advance. In some cases, domestic help employed from a third country may be eligible for Swedish health benefits while residing in Sweden.

Daycare centers, Montessori schools, and parent-owned cooperatives are available; but often there is a waiting list.

It is difficult, but possible, to find domestic help in Sweden. Most such workers are foreign, salaries are high, and anyone planning to have a full-time live-in maid must be familiar with the working conditions for domestics established by Swedish law. These include a minimum wage and restrictions on access to public assistance by third-country nationals. Some people hire cleaning personnel by the hour, and extra help at receptions and dinners can be arranged.

Religious Activities

Until the year 2000 all Swedish citizens automatically become members of the Church of Sweden at birth if one of their parents is a member. In 2000, church and state will separate. Nearly 90% of the population belongs to the established Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Sweden; but regular church attendance is low: only 5% of the overall population are active churchgoers. The many church buildings are well maintained through support from taxes and income from land holdings. Services are usually held in Swedish. English services are also conducted at the interdenominational Immanuel Church, the Anglican Church of St. Peter and St. Sigfhed, St. Jacob's Church, and the Roman Catholic Church of St. Eugenia. In addition, Greek Orthodox, Jewish, Moslem, Mormon, Methodist, Baptist, Mission Covenant, and Pentecostal churches are located in Stockholm. Services are usually in Swedish, although it is also possible to find services conducted in French, German, Spanish, and English.


Most American children in the elementary grades attend the International School of Stockholm or the British Primary School. Both are English-language, coeducational schools. The school year has two terms beginning late August and January. School ends in mid June. Both schools may have waiting lists for admission.

The International School of Stockholm was founded in 1952 and is located in downtown Stockholm. It is accredited by the European Council of International Schools and The Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. The International School curriculum combines elements of American and British School curricula. ISS has kindergarten through grade 9 and accepts children ages 4-15. Maximum class size is 25 in the lower school and 20 in the upper school. Facilities include a gym, computer class, music and art rooms. American standardized tests are given each year. For further information, contact: The Principal, Stockholm International School, Johannesgatan 18, 111 38 Stockholm, Sweden, tel: (46) (8) 412 40 00, fax: (46) (8) 8-10 52 89.

The British Primary School, founded in 1980, is located in Djursholm, a residential suburb north of Stockholm. The school enrolls children in the British equivalents of preschool and kindergarten through Grade 6. Each department offers an educational program designed specifically to meet the academic and social needs of the students. There are currently around 200 students, the largest representations are British and American. The majority of its teachers, coming from both Britain and the United States, are permanently based in Sweden. They are supported by specialists in EFL, French, Swedish, Music, and PE. The building includes a gymnasium, music room, library, computer studies room, art and pottery room, and a science area. For further information, contact Principal, British Primary School, Ostra Valhallavagen, 182 62 Djursholm, Sweden, tel: (46) (8) 755 2375, fax: (46) (8) 755 2635.

The English School is an independent school approved by the National School Board for grades 1-9. The school's educational program follows a modified Swedish curriculum with most subjects taught in English. Swedish is taught 6 lessons per week at two different levels, corresponding to the student's knowledge of the subject. For further information, contact: Principal, The Engelska Skolan, Valhallavägen 9, 114 22 Stockholm, Sweden, tel: (46) (8) 673 29 10, fax: (46) (8) 673 29 15.

American children in grades 10-12 often attend the Kungsholmen Gymnasium just west of the city center. Courses are offered in three lines of study in English: The International Baccalaureate, the Social Science line, and the Natural Science line. The International Baccalaureate Line admits students by examination and is aimed for students bound for competitive colleges in Europe and the U.S. Instruction is in English, and compulsory courses are Swedish, English, French, history, psychology, social science, mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, music or drawing, and physical education. Electives are German, Russian, or Spanish. Fewer subjects are required in the Social Science Line and the Natural Science Line, but both have a college prep curriculum. For more information, contact: Kungsholmen's Gymnasium, International Section, Hantverkargatan 67-69, 112 38 Stockholm, Sweden, tel: (46) (8) 693 53 00, fax: (46) (8) 693 53 01.

Another educational option for children in high school is the Sigtunaskolan Humanistiska Laroverket, coeducational boarding school in Sigtuna, approximately 27 miles from Stockholm. The school offers a 3-year program in English leading to the International Baccalaureate degree. The school enrolls 200 day students and 300 boarding students. It is popular with Swedish families whose children have begun their education in English while living abroad. For further information, contact: Sigtunaskolan Humanistiska Laroverket, Manfred Bjorkquists alle 6-8, Box 8, 193 00 Sigtuna, Sweden, tel: (46) (8) 592 571 00, fax: (46) (8) 592 572 50.

Swedish public schools also accept American children, but Swedish is the language of instruction. Foreigners are given special tutoring. Children in Sweden begin school at age 7, and classes are held Monday through friday.

Children with learning disabilities often find education difficult in Stockholm. Many of the disabilities recognized in the United States are either not recognized or are little understood here. If your children have learning disabilities or attention deficit disorder, contact the school directly to determine whether the school is capable of dealing with your child. Get any commitments from the school in writing.

Special Educational Opportunities

One out of every three adult Swedes is enrolled in an adult education program of some kind. Courses range from arts, crafts, and music to academic subjects and vocational training. Classes are held throughout the day and evening, and tuition costs are generally subsidized. Instruction is in Swedish.

The Swedish language is also taught in adult education programs in a variety of formats. These range from intensive full-time classes intended for immigrants who need to achieve fluency as quickly as possible to evening conversation groups designed especially for the diplomatic community.


Sweden is truly a sporting nation. One in every four Swedes belongs to one of 20,000 local sports clubs representing 61 different national associations. A year-round program of sports for all ages is organized in every commune (municipality). With a little effort and some basic Swedish, American family members can participate in these activities. Dozens of mass sports events are held each year, where the emphasis is on participation. In March, 12,000 cross-country skiers participate in the 90 kilometer "Vasaloppet" commemorating a 16th-century turning point in the formation of the Swedish state. The streets of Stockholm are cordoned off in May for the "Tjejtrampet," billed as the world's largest women's bicycle race with 6,000 participants. There is a regular calendar of recreational runs, from children's fun runs to the Stockholm Marathon; the "Lidingöloppet" attracts over 25,000 men and women to its arduous cross-country trail.

Public indoor swimming pools are popular in the winter months. The most modern facilities have waves, currents, and waterfalls in addition to the standard "bastu" (sauna) and solarium. Many indoor pools are closed in the summer, with the expectation that people will take part in the brisk swimming offered by the Baltic Sea and Lake Malaren, whose waters reach 62°F in the summer.

Hiking, cycling, and walking are popular. Scenic paths follow the water in town and the forests and park areas in the outskirts of town. The "Kustlinien" is a bicycle path that runs from the center of Stockholm 120 miles both north and south. It is linked among the islands of the archipelago by 31 different ferry companies. Hunting in Sweden is limited to those invited by proprietors of game land. Duck, hare, deer, and moose are plentiful. Hunting rifles and shotguns can be purchased locally after first obtaining a license.

Many game fish can be found in and around Stockholm, and salmon rivers are convenient to the city. Salmon fishing in streams and rivers is tightly controlled, but in recent years, it has become common for anglers along Stockholm's waterfront to pull in fine salmon with no fees to pay. Trout are found in streams near the mountain range along the Swedish-Norwegian border; fishing rights there are not restrictive. All types of fishing tackle can be purchased locally. In Stockholm, fishing is permitted without a license, a unique privilege that has been enjoyed in the capital since the 17th century. The catch includes Baltic herring, pike, perch, cod, salmon, and trout depending on the time of year.

Tennis (which is primarily an indoor game in Sweden), squash, health club, badminton, golf, and bowling facilities are available. Club memberships are expensive if not prohibitive. Nationwide, "Friskis & Svettis" offers popular and reasonable aerobics classes. Horseback riding may be enjoyed all year; bridle paths are well maintained, and several stables have indoor rings. Greater Stockholm is well equipped with cross-country ski trails (many lighted) and downhill beginners' slopes with lifts. The closest ski resort with a ski lift is in Salen, Dalarna, about a 5-hour drive from Stockholm. Ice skating is available on many public rinks and lakes; enthusiasts take part in long-distance skating on the waterways leading out to the Baltic.

Touring and Outdoor Activities

In only a few places in the world is boating so generally enjoyed. The season is short (May 15-September 15), but the Stockholm archipelago is beautiful and easily accessible for either sailing or motorboating. A unique Swedish legal custom, "Allemansratt," establishes conditions for camping and hiking on private property without disturbing the owners. There is a lively market for secondhand boats, and boat clubs are located all over Stockholm, although most have a waiting list. An easy way to get on the water is to enroll in one of the several boating courses and sailing camps organized for the public during the summer. Kayaking is popular.

Sight-seeing tours by bus and boat are available through tourist offices and along the waterfront. Nearby destinations include: Uppsala, a university town and site of a restored medieval cathedral, and Old Uppsala where Viking burial mounds are located (1-1/4 hours by car; 1 hour by train); Saltsjobaden, a seaside resort on an inlet of the Baltic (half-hour by car or train); Grip-sholm Castle, a large fortress containing Sweden's national portrait gallery (1 hour by car, 3 hours by steam ferry across Lake Malaren); Skokloster Castle, built at the close of the Thirty Years' War and outfitted with late 17th-century furnishings and armaments (about 1-1/4 hours); Drottningholm Castle, with its beautiful gardens and 18th-century opera theater (20 minutes by car or 45 minutes by boat); and Sigtuna, ancient Viking capital, site of several of the earliest churches in Sweden and of original 17th-century buildings (1 hour by car).

For longer trips, the walled Hanseatic city of Visby on the Baltic island of Götland, is an overnight boat ride or a 1-hour flight away. Many summer resorts on Sweden's west coast, including Bestad, hold international tennis matches. Lap-land, north of the Arctic Circle, captivates visitors with its primeval beauty under a midnight sun. It is also possible to visit the crystal and glass factories in southern Sweden. In Smäland, factories are located in the towns of Kosta, Boda, and Orrefors, which are 200 miles south of Stockholm and near the island of Öland, another popular summer resort area. The mountain regions along Sweden's border with Norway attract skiers in the winter and hikers and whitewater rafters in the summer. Sweden's heartland, Dalarna, lies amid lakes and forests about a 4-hour drive north of Stockholm. The area is famous for its well-preserved folk culture, including the carved wooden horses that have become a symbol of Sweden overseas. Many tourists visit Dalarna to participate in the midsummer celebrations, but regional cultural events, such as music and dance festivals are held throughout the year.

Charter flights (usually to warm weather resort destinations) are popular and are one of the best bargains in Sweden. Resort packages may include a 1-or 2-week visit, hotels, and meals at prices less than that of regular airfare. Another convenient excursion opportunity is a weekend trip to Finland, Russia, Estonia, or Lithuania on regularly scheduled ferries that leave from Stockholm. The shipping companies vie with each other to provide amenities on these crossings, whose profits derive mainly from tax-free sales on board.


Stockholm has the Royal Opera and two symphony orchestras with performances from September to June. The Royal Dramatic Theater and more than 30 other theaters feature outstanding modern productions in Swedish. An English-speaking professional theater performs four plays a year. In summer, the opera performs period pieces at Drottningholm Court Theater, the world's oldest (1766) theater still in use. Stockholm's newest stage is the domed civic center known as Globen. Many well-known American entertainers making a European tour include a Globen performance. The facility also hosts international sports events, such as the Stockholm Open Tennis Tournament in the Fall.

Swedes are avid moviegoers. More than 200 films are released in Sweden each year. They are shown in the original language with Swedish subtitles. Sweden supports the production of about 20 feature films a year through the Swedish Film Institute. Stockholm offers a variety of restaurants, nightclubs, bars, and discotheques similar to other European capitals. Jazz clubs, in particular, are a well-established tradition in the Old Town and the artists' quarter of Soder. Spectator events in Stockholm include trotting races, horse-races, regattas, tennis, soccer, ice hockey, high-speed ice skating, ski jumping, wrestling, boxing, swimming, and international athletic meets.

Social Activities

Social life in Stockholm depends to a great extent on individual effort and interests. The following clubs offer activities for Americans:

American Citizens Abroad in Sweden. This club provides a forum for Americans living outside the United States. Citizenship, taxation, social security, voting, education and health care are among the many nonpartisan issues that ACA addresses.

The American Club. For members of the business community, including Swedes doing business in the U.S. Monthly luncheons, periodic bridge and golf tournaments, and dances are held.

American Women's Club in Sweden. Membership open to all American women in Sweden, many of whom are married to Swedes. The Club has evening circles for those unable to attend functions during the day.

Club USA . A Social club for the younger set (20-35) of Americans and Swedes in Stockholm that holds social events once a month.

English-Speaking Community Club. Membership open to all English-speakers in the Stockholm area. Cultural, recreational activities, and study clubs are organized for all age groups.

International Women's Club. For all English-speaking women: luncheons, bazaars, study groups, dances and tours.


Göteborg is Sweden's major seaport to the west, and its maritime traditions are more than 300 years old. When the foundations of the present city were laid in 1619, Dutchmen did the planning and building; and Germans, Britons, and Scotsmen helped the Swedes to pave the paths and roads of commerce through the city. Viking fleets gathered off the mouth of the Gota River as late as the 10th century to trade at big markets. The canals through the town originally formed the actual harbor area.

Göteborg's harbor is the biggest in Scandinavia, and the city ranks 35th among the world's largest seaports. About 85 regular shipping lines include Göteborg in their traffic schedules. A ship arrives or departs, on the average, every 15 minutes. The amount of cargo loaded or unloaded is estimated at 20.5 million metric tons per year. Frequent ferry connections link Göteborg with Jutland in Denmark, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands.

The city is well laid out and clean. Many parkways and lovely parks with bright summer flowers add much to its charm. Gentle hills surround the city, inviting the hiker to stroll among the woods and lakes.

Göteborg (or Gothenburg) is the home of about 15,000 enterprises and more than 300,000 employees. Some 720,000 people live in the immediate area (450,000 in the city proper), and about the same number visit here each year. Approximately 3,000 U.S. citizens live in or near Göteborg.

Recreation and Entertainment

During summer, thousands of Göteborg's inhabitants move to the country. After the dark, sunless winter, everyone is eager to enjoy fully the short summer, and coastal beaches and rocks are crowded with sun-bathers. The west coast's numerous summer resorts and beaches offer an abundance of recreational activities. Göteborg has a few large, modern, indoor swimming pools, most of which are open year round. Besides swimming, some pools offer gymnastic rooms, sun rooms, steam baths, and massage. Göteborg also has the largest indoor stadium in Scandinavia and a modern, centrally located amusement park, Liseberg, open during summer.

Göteborg's tennis clubs offer numerous indoor and outdoor courts. Squash also is a favorite local sport. Skating is a popular winter sport enjoyed on the many area lakes. Skiing is only occasionally possible because of the lack of snow in this region; the winter sports enthusiast usually goes to northern Sweden or Norway.

The most popular sports on the west coast are boating and sailing, followed by fishing, golfing, and horseback riding.

Charter travel is surprisingly inexpensive in this area, and in most parts of Sweden. In winter, trips to warmer areas are favored.

Göteborg has three fairly large theaters. The City Theater (Stadsteatern) and the Folk Theater (Folkteatern) usually present plays. The Grand Theater (Stora Teatern) specializes in opera, operetta, and ballet. All productions are in Swedish. Concerts are presented each year from September to June in the Concert Hall (Konserthuset) and during summer in the Liseberg Concert Hall. American entertainers touring Sweden often include Göteborg on their schedule.

Movie theaters show American, English, Swedish, and other productions with original soundtracks; Swedish subtitles are supplied as needed. Numerous restaurants offer a wide range of prices. Göteborg is particularly known for its excellent seafood. Several outdoor restaurants are open during summer, as are numerous sidewalk cafés.


Malmö located on the Öresund Strait opposite Copenhagen, Denmark, is Sweden's third largest city. A fortified seaport with a population of about 235,000, Malmö is 300 miles south of Stockholm, in the Skåne region of southern Sweden. It is a major naval and commercial port, as well as an industrial center whose principal products include textiles, clothing, metal goods, processed food, and cement.

The city was founded in the 12th century and was an important trade and shipping center. For most of its history, Malmö was a Danish possession until it passed to Sweden in 1658. Historical buildings include Malmöhaus Castle, begun in 1434, and now a museum. The city hall, built in 1546, and St. Peter's Church, constructed in the 14th century, are also noteworthy.


Uppsala, Sweden's center of scholarship and history, is situated on the Fyrisån River in eastern Sweden, about 50 miles northwest of Stockholm. It's population is 164,750. The city developed close to Gamla Uppsala, which was the country's capital in the sixth century. An archiepiscopal see was established here in 1270. The city's cathedral, built in that era, is considered the finest Gothic church in Sweden; it is the usual coronation place of Swedish kings, as well as the burial place of several of the country's noted citizens.

Uppsala is the site of the oldest university in northern Europe, the University of Uppsala, founded in 1477. Since its reorganization in 1595, it has been ranked among the world's great educational institutions; library holdings include two-and-a-half million volumes, 32,000 manuscripts, and more than 700,000 foreign dissertations. Uppsala is also the home of the Royal Society of Sciences, the Gustav Institute of High-Energy Physics and Radiation Biology, and the Victoria, Linnaean, and Upplands museums.

Ancient pagan burial mounds (from the city's historic pre-Christian era) lie just beyond Uppsala.


GÄVLE , 75 miles northeast of Västerås, is a seaport city that exports iron ore and wood pulp. Industries include textile mills and chemical plants. Chartered as a city in 1446, Gävle has a population today of 92,000.

HALMSTAD , 45 miles north of Helsingborg, is a seaport on the Kattegat. With a population of nearly 77,000, Halmstad has a steel plant, paper mills, shipbuilding yards, fisheries, and breweries. Landmarks include a 14th-century church.

HELSINGBORG (also spelled Hälsingborg) is a seaport in southern Sweden on the Oresund Strait. Connected by ferry to Helsingor, Denmark, Helsingborg is 275 miles southwest of Stockholm. A commercial and industrial center, it manufactures processed copper, rubber, electrical goods, textiles, and refined sugar. The city has been a trade center since the ninth century. During the Danish-Swedish conflicts of the 17th century, Helsingborg became part of Denmark; it was returned to Sweden in 1710 and was rebuilt. The modern industrial development of Helsingborg began in the mid-19th century. The current population is about 118,500. Historical sites include a castle (built between the 12th and 15th centuries), the Church of St. Mary (13th to 15th centuries), and numerous half-timber houses.

JÖNKÖPING is a historic, old city in the south, situated 175 miles southwest of Stockholm. Chartered in 1284, it was twice burned by its own residents during wars between Sweden and Denmark. The 1809 treaty between the countries was signed here. Present-day Jönköping dates from the early 17th century. The making of matches is the principal industry; paper and textiles are also made. Landmarks include the Old Town Hall, the Court of Appeal (built in 1655, Sweden's second oldest), and Christina Church. This county capital of 118,000 residents has a county museum. Jönköping is linked to Sweden's main rail lines, and has water connections with the Kattegat (part of the North Sea) and the Baltic through the Göta Kanal.

KARLSTAD lies on Tingvalla Island in Lake Vänern, about 170 miles west of Stockholm. Forest products and heavy industry are the economic mainstays here. An extensive export-import trade is also significant. Karlstad was named in honor of Charles IX, who granted it a charter in 1584. The area had been known as Tingvalla (Thingvalla), after the ting, or meetings of the legislature held here. In 1905, the treaty ending the union of Sweden and Norway was signed in the city. Karlstad, with an estimated population of 74,000, has large parks and wide avenues. Few structures predate a disastrous 1865 fire; one is the Östra Bron (or East Bridge, finished in 1770). The University of Karlstad opened in 1970.

KRISTIANSTAD is a seaport in southern Sweden, about 50 miles northeast of Malmö, on the Baltic Sea. Founded in 1614 by Christian IV of Denmark, Kristianstad's history was divided between Denmark and Sweden until 1678, when the city was ceded to the Swedes. With a current population of 69,000, Kristianstad is a trade center in an agricultural region. It has flour mills and slaughterhouses, as well as food processing and textile plants.

LANDSKRONA is just a few miles south of Helsingborg. Also a seaport on the Oresund Strait, Landskrona's industries include shipbuilding, metalworking, food processing, and tanning. First mentioned in 1412, Landskrona was the site of a Swedish victory over the Danes in 1677. The current population is 36,500.

LINKÖPING , with a population of some 134,000, is a rail junction and manufacturing center. It is located 110 miles southwest of Stockholm in the southeastern region. This was a prominent commercial, cultural, and religious hub in the Middle Ages. Many diets, or assemblies, were held in Linköping during the reign of Gustav I Vasa. The 1598 victory here of the Vasas over King Sigismund III (1566-1632) secured the Swedish throne for the Vasas and the Protestants. The beheading of four of Sigismund's supporters in the main square two years later became known as "the Linköping Massacre." The building of the Götaand Kinda canals and the Stockholm-Malmö railway made this an industrial center. Landmarks in Linköping include a 15th-century cathedral and a 13th-century castle. A university was founded here in 1970.

NORRKÖPING is a seaport at the head of the Bråviken, a narrow inlet of the Baltic Sea. Situated in eastern Sweden about 90 miles south of Stockholm, Norrköping's population is approximately 123,000. The city was founded in 1350, chartered in 1384, and burned by the Russians in 1719 during the Northern War. Today, Norrköping is a commercial, industrial, and transportation center. Its industries include those producing paper, rubber, furniture, radio and television sets, and processed food. Among the historical structures are Hedvig's Church, built in the 17th century.

ÖREBRO is one of Sweden's oldest cities. Situated on the Svart River, 100 miles southwest of Stockholm in the south-central area, its population is approximately 125,00. The city's economy is based on shoe and biscuit manufacture. Örebro has a modern look because it was rebuilt after an 1854 fire. Some of its impressive historic edifices include a restored Swedish Renaissance castle, used both as a museum and governor's residence; the Kungsstugan, or King's House, dating to the 15th century and one of the country's best-preserved wooden buildings; and a 13th-century Gothic church. Örebro played a significant role in Swedish history. The national hero, Engelbrekt Engelbrektsson (1390-1436), lived here, and the 16th-century church reformers, Olaus and Laurentius Petri, were born in the city. Many crucial diets, or assemblies, took place in Örebro, especially that of 1810. At that time, French marshal Jean Bernadotte was elected king of Sweden as Charles XIV John. Örebro enjoys good rail and boat connections, and is at the junction of national highways.

VÄSTERÅS is a port on Lake Mälaren in eastern Sweden, about 70 miles northwest of Stockholm. Founded in 1100, it became one of the country's great medieval cities; a 13th-century cathedral and a 14th-century fortified castle remain. Västerås was the venue of the 1527 parliament which formally introduced the Reformation into Sweden. Today, Västerås is a major inland port, shipping iron ore, lumber, and iron goods. The center of the Swedish electrical industry, the city also produces machinery, glass, and metalware. The current population is 128,000.


Geography and Climate

Sweden is bounded on the west by Norway and an arm of the North Sea, on the north by Norway and Finland, and on the east and south by the Baltic Sea. The country is long and narrow, encompassing an area of 174,000 square miles, a little larger than France or the state of California. In the northwest are mountains, and lakes abound throughout Sweden. To the south and east are forests, fertile valleys, and plains. Along Sweden's rocky coast, interspersed with bays and inlets, are many islands, the largest of which are Gotland and Öland. Despite its northern latitude, Sweden's climate is not excessively cold due to the proximity of the Gulf Stream and the Baltic Sea. The mean annual temperature is 48°F. Stockholm is situated at approximately the same latitude as Juneau, Alaska. During most of December and early January, the sun does not rise before 9 am and sets as early as 2:30 pm. Snow usually falls in January, February, and March. The average temperature range for January is 27°F-30°F (Washington, D.C. is 27°F-43°F). Spring comes late, with snow possible even in May. By June, daylight is almost continuous, and the vegetation is luxuriant. In July, the average temperature range is 57°F-72°F (Washington, D.C. is 68°F-88°F). Many firms close down for the month so that the entire staff can take vacation. The average annual rainfall in Stockholm is 22 inches, compared with 39 for Washington, D.C. New arrivals often have the impression that the statistics should be reversed, and for good reason. It doesn't rain more in Stockholm, but it does rain more often: 164 days a year compared with 113 for Washington, D.C.


Sweden's population is roughly 8.6 million, and almost 83 percent live in urban communities. Sweden's small Same (Lapp) population numbers about 17,000. About 10 percent of the population are immigrants, with Finns in the majority. Turks, Greeks, and Yugoslavs composed much of the first immigrant wave in the 1960s and 1970s. More recent refugee groups come from the Middle East, Latin America, Eastern Europe and most recently from Bosnia. Stockholm has a population of 670,0001.5 million, including the suburbs.

Public Institutions

Sweden is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary government. The unicameral Parliament (Riksdag) is the sole governing body. The Prime Minister is the political chief executive. Direct parliamentary elections take place every 4 years. Sweden has one of the world's highest percentage of women in parliament: in 1998, 149 of 349 members were women.

Arts, Science, and Education

As exemplified by the annual Nobel Prize ceremonies, Sweden is a leading nation in the field of education and has 33 institutions of higher learning. Among these are the world-renowned Karolinska Institute of Medicine; universities in Uppsala, Lund, Stockholm, Goteborg, Umea, and Linkoping; three technical institutes; and specialized professional schools for dentistry, pharmacy, veterinary sciences, agriculture, forestry, economics, social work, art, music, journalism, and library science. Stockholm University administers the Institute for English-speaking Students, which is divided into three sections: International Graduate School (IGS), Stockholm Junior Year, and Swedish-language courses. The emphasis is on Swedish-language and literature, economics, social and political sciences, and international affairs. An American degree is required for admission to the IGS, itself a non-degree program. Academic subjects, Swedish language, and arts and crafts are offered in 11 nationwide adult education programs. These are subsidized by the government and open to foreign residents at modest cost. Several courses are also offered for English-speaking foreigners on Swedish history, culture, and computer science. Stockholm and its environs are rich in museums, galleries, and historical sites.

Commerce and Industry

The development of a skilled and disciplined labor force led by creative entrepreneurs provided the basis for Sweden's transformation from a poor, rural society into a highly productive industrial economy. The transformation, completed by the early 1930s, was fueled by an abundance of forest products, iron ore, and waterpower. Untouched by the ravages of World War II, Sweden's industries produced and exported the machinery, vehicles, ships, and other products and raw materials that paid the bill for the present elaborate Swedish social welfare system. This system is now under examination as Sweden adapts to its new European Union membership and the heightened competition this status brings. Sweden exports 30% of its gross domestic product. The U.S. is Sweden's third largest trading partner, after Germany and the U.K. The Swedish labor force of 4.3 million workers is highly skilled, and 87% belong to trade unions. In most families, both husband and wife work; and females comprise 48% of the work force. Women are paid approximately 80% of what men earn, and men predominate in highly paid white-collar positions.



If vehicles are purchased new in Sweden, modifications do not have to be made to meet Swedish standards; and such vehicles can be sold tax-free two years after purchase. Virtually all automobile makes are represented in Stockholm including Volvo, Saab, Ford, Chrysler, and Toyota.

All automobiles must have an annual inspection. Depending on the make, model, and year, the automobile may require minor modification to pass inspection. The Swedish inspection is rigorous and focuses particularly on the exhaust emission system for leaks and a high percentage of carbon monoxide. Be sure any car you bring into Sweden is in good condition so that inspection problems can be minimized.

When you import a car into Sweden, you will have to pay a customs processing fee of about SEK 150 (about $20) and an inspection and registration fee of about SEK 900 (about $120). Additionally, there is a refundable fee of about $500 that must be paid "upfront"-refunds are processed usually within one month.

The foregoing restrictions do not apply to the purchase of a used vehicle in Sweden. You may purchase and sell a used car at any time.

Because of road salt and gravel used on the roads in winter, it is a good idea to undercoat your car. Winter tires are advisable (and may become mandatory) from early November through mid-April.

Sweden has reciprocal agreements with some other countries that allow you to use those licenses. The minimum driving age in Sweden is 18. Sweden has very strict drunk-driving laws. Driving after drinking even a very modest amount of alcohol is a serious offense that carries a mandatory fine, loss of license, and a jail sentence.

You must purchase third-party liability insurance from a local Swedish company. Collision insurance can be purchased from several American or Swedish companies. You may want to check with your current auto insurer to see if it offers coverage in Sweden. If you have a letter from your current insurer stating your number of accident-free years, you may be able to obtain a reduced rate from a Swedish insurer.


Greater Stockholm has an extensive network of buses, trains, and subways. For those living downtown, commuting to work by public transportation is convenient and relatively inexpensive. Those living in the suburbs often commute by car. The use of public transportation is actively encouraged by Swedish authorities, and parking is limited and expensive. Cabs are plentiful and not much more expensive than in the D.C. area. Bicycles are very popular, and throughout the city and suburbs there are extensive bicycle paths that allow one to ride free from motor traffic.


Arlanda airport is about 25 miles north of Stockholm. Bus or taxi transportation for the 45-minute drive into the city is easily arranged on arrival. A rail connection from downtown to the airport is under construction and should be finished in 1999.

The train system in Sweden is excellent, but travel by train is relatively expensive. Round trip from Stockholm to Goteborg, for example, is about $140. There are also bus connections from Stockholm with all major Swedish towns. Bus travel is relatively inexpensive. For example, round trip from Stockholm to Goteborg is $45.


Telephone and Telegraph

Sweden has a modern, reliable telecommunications system with direct dial service to the U.S. Rates are lower than elsewhere in Europe, and the trend is toward the cost-based rate structure used in the U.S. Bring an AT&T, MCI, or Sprint phone card. Internet and on-line service connections are widely available at reasonable prices. There are no restrictions on personal computers, which are available locally at reasonable prices.


International airmail from the U.S. is generally delivered in Stockholm within a week. Surface delivery letters take approximately 4-5 weeks to arrive by international mail; packages take about 68 weeks.

Radio and TV

Short-wave VOA broadcasts can be received morning and evening. BBC shortwave can be heard almost 24 hours daily. Radio Sweden broadcasts daily in English in Stockholm on the FM band and currently offers some programs from National Public Radio and the BBC. Swedish TV's two independent networks together broadcast 137 hours of news programming each week and about 7 hours of English programming a day. U.S. programs with Swedish subtitles on these channels average 12 hours a week. Other foreign-made programs in the original language account for another 28 hours of weekly programming. The independent, commercial broadcasting networks are more oriented toward entertainment than the state-owned networks. Nearly 45% of the Swedish population has access to cable TV Cable subscribers may choose from CNN, MTV, Discovery, Lifestyle, Screensport, and Worldnet from the U.S.; the BBC, Super Channel, Skynews, Skynet, and Eurosport from Britain. Programming is also available from Germany, France, Norway, Finland, Russia, and Sweden. Satellite dishes are available from a number of vendors. VHS video is popular and there are many rental outlets.

Swedish TV uses the PAL system. American TV uses the NTSC system. Other than with NTSC videos, a U.S. TV cannot be used in Sweden.

Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals

Same day editions of most leading European newspapers, including the International Herald Tribune, are available at newsstands or by subscription. The Washington Post and New York Times are usually available for next-day purchase at high prices. International mail subscriptions are available for most news magazines. Stockholm bookstores have a great variety of American and British magazines, books and paperbacks. Stockholm's public libraries also contain ample selections of English-language materials, including children's books.

Health and Medicine

Medical Facilities

Sweden is justly famous for its comprehensive quality health care system, and Stockholm is well provided with modern hospitals and dental facilities. Nevertheless, securing medical care often proves frustrating for American's in Stockholm, who find themselves among a small minority not covered under the state medical insurance system. The national health facilities are available on a fee basis, but it takes time and personal commitment to learn how to access the health care you will need. Stockholm also has private health practitioners, clinics, and hospitals that operate along lines familiar to Americans.

Community Health

Public health standards are high and monitored closely; few special precautions are necessary. You will need to adjust to the experience of living at 60° North, where winters are long and dark, summers short and intensely light. Many areas of Sweden are densely wooded and the incidence of Lyme disease is comparable to the Northeastern USA. Colds and flu are the most common ailments here. Rheumatism, bronchial ailments, and sinus trouble may be aggravated during winter. Humidifiers can be purchased locally. Stockholm takes pride that its waters and lakes, which make up 13 percent of the area within the city limits, are fit for swimming.

Preventive Measures

Most medicines for colds, sinus conditions, and allergies require a prescription if purchased at a Swedish pharmacy. Flu shots are available in the fall. Children can take fluoride supplements, available locally. Some people chose to be inoculated against tick-borne encephalitis; wear suitable clothing when camping or hiking.


Jan. 1 New Year's Day

Jan. 6 Epihpany

Mar/Apr.Good Friday*


Mar/Apr.Easter Monday*

May 1Swedish Labor Day

May/JuneAscension Day*



June Midsummer Eve*

Sept. 2 Labor Day

Nov. 1All Saints' Day

Dec. 25 Christmas Day

Dec. 26 Boxing Day



Stockholm has daily, direct connections with the U.S, through American, Delta, and United airlines.

A valid U.S. driver's license may be used while visiting Sweden, but the drivers must be at least 18 years of age. Driving in Sweden is on the right. Road signs use standard international symbols and Swedish text. Many urban streets have traffic lanes reserved for public transport only. Emergency services (equivalent to 911 in the U.S.) for traffic accidents and emergency roadside assistance can be reached by calling 112.

A valid passport is required. Tourist and business travelers do not need visas for stays of less than 90 days. Since March 2001, Sweden entry visas are governed by the rules in the Schengen Agreement. Under the Agreement, all the European Union countries (except Ireland and the United Kingdom), as well as the European Economic Area countries of Norway and Iceland, have opened their borders to one another. A visa issued for a visit to one of these countries is normally valid in all of the other countries as well. For further information on entry requirements, contact the Royal Swedish Embassy at 1501 M. Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20005, tel: (202) 467-2600, or the Swedish Consulate General in New York at (212) 751-5900 or check their homepage at

No vaccination or health certificates are required.

Americans living in or visiting Sweden are encouraged to register at the consular section of the U.S. Embassy in Stockholm and obtain updated information on travel and security within Sweden. The U.S. Embassy is located at Dag Hammarskjoldsvag 31, telephone (46)(8) 783-5300, fax (46)(8) 660-5879 and after-hours telephone (46)(8) 783-5310.


Sweden has strict quarantine regulations for all pets. A four month quarantine is required upon arrival in Sweden, except for those animals that have lived for a least one year in and EU country and are brought directly from that country to Sweden. All pets are subject to veterinary examination at entry and will be admitted only if healthy.

A quarantine kennel for dogs is located outside Stockholm in Vallentuna. Cats can be quarantined in Stenungsund or Lidkoping, both outside of Goteborg. Space availability in these kennels is very limited and a six month waiting list is not unusual. The kennel cost is about 15,000 SEK for a cat ($1, 950) and about 25,000 SEK ($3,250) for a dog, plus veterinary charges. Visits after the first month may not be permitted.

ONce space has been secured you must apply for the required import permit. The most important provision of the permit is that space in the quarantine kennel has been secured. If any pet is shipped to Sweden without the proper permits, it will remain at the airport for 48 hours until arrangements can be made for shipment back to the originating country.

Firearms and Ammunition

The following non-automatic firearms and ammunition may be brought into Sweden: Handguns: No handguns and no ammunition.

Hunting Rifles: 2 (includes shotgun but no elephant guns); with 200 rounds each, and 2,000 rounds of skeet loaded shotgun shells.

Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures

The official monetary unit is the Swedish krona (plural: kronor-SEK); 100 ore =1 krona. Bills are in denominations of 1,000, 500, 100, 50, and 20. Coins are in denominations of 10, 5, and 1 kronor, and 50 ore. Banks and international newspapers have current rates of exchange.

You can access your American checking account with an ATM card on the Cirrus or Plus system; ATM machines are common. It is common to open a local personal kronor checking account or post office (PostGiro) account to pay local bills. Credit cards are widely accepted.

Sweden has a value-added tax (VAT) of 25% on merchandise, 12% on food and 18% on hotel and restaurant services.

Sweden uses the metric system of weights and measures.


These titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on Sweden.

Andersson, Ingvar. A History of Sweden. Greenword Press: Westport, CT, 1975.

Bergman, G. A Short History of the Swedish Language. The Swedish Institute: Stockholm, 1973.

Bergman, Ingmar. The Magic Lantern. Penguin Books: London, 1988.

Bernitz, Ulf, and Draper, John. Consumer Protection in Sweden. Liber forlag: Stockholm, 1986.

Carlgren, W. M. Swedish Foreign Policy During the Second World War. Translated by A. Spencer. St. Martins Press: New York, 1977.

Einhorn, Eric, and Logue, John. Modern Welfare States. Politics and Policies in Social Democratic Scandinavia. Praeger Publishers: New York, 1989.

Esping-Andersen, Gosta. Politics Against Markets. The Social Democratic Road to Power. Princeton University Press: Princeton, 1988.

Frangsmyr, Tore. Science in Sweden. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 1739-1989. Science History Publications: Canton, MA, 1989.

Graham-Campbell, James and Kidd, Dafydd. The Vikings. W Morrow & Co.: New York, 1980.

Gustavson, Carl G. The Small Giant: Sweden Enters the Industrial Era. Ohio University Press: Athens, Ohio, 1986.

Hadenius, Stig, and Lindgren, Ann. On Sweden. The Swedish Institute: Stockholm, 1990.

Hadenius, Stig. Swedish Politics During the 20th Century. The Swedish Institute: Stockholm, 1990.

Koblik, Steven, ed. Sweden's Development from Poverty to Affluence, 1750-1970. Routledge & Kegan Paul: London and Boston, 1980.

Liman, Ingemar. Discover Sweden. Illustris: Malmo, 1989.

Moberg, Wilhelm. The Emigrants; The Immigrants; The Last Letter Home. Popular Library Press: New York, 1971.

Scott, Franklin D. Sweden: The Nation's History. Southern Illinois Press: Carbondale, IL, 1988.

Solvell, Orjan, Zander, Ivo, and Porter, Michael. Advantage Sweden. Norstedts: Stockholm, 1991.

Strindberg, August. Strindberg: Five Plays. University of California Press: Berkeley, 1983.

Stromholm, Stig. An Introduction to Swedish Law. Norstedts: Stockholm, 1988.

Sundelius, Bengt. The Committed Neutral-Sweden's Foreign Policy. Westview Press: Boulder, Co, 1989.

Tilton, Tim. The Political Theory of Swedish Social Democracy. Clarendon Press: Oxford, 1990.

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Basic Data

Official Country Name: Kingdom of Sweden
Region (Map name): Europe
Population: 8,875,053
Language(s): Swedish
Literacy rate: 99.0%
Area: 449,964 sq km
GDP: 227,319 (US$ millions)
Number of Daily Newspapers: 93
Total Circulation: 3,700,000
Circulation per 1,000: 541
Number of Nondailys Newspapers: 74
Total Circulation: 389,000
Circulation per 1,000: 57
Newspaper Consumption (minutes per day): 31
Total Newspaper Ad Receipts: 9,483 (Swedish Krona millions)
As % of All Ad Expenditures: 55.20
Magazine Consumption (minutes per day): 11
Number of Television Stations: 169
Number of Television Sets: 4,600,000
Television Sets per 1,000: 518.3
Television Consumption (minutes per day): 105
Number of Cable Subscribers: 1,773,770
Cable Subscribers per 1,000: 199.3
Number of Satellite Subscribers: 1,050,000
Satellite Subscribers per 1,000: 118.3
Number of Radio Stations: 267
Number of Radio Receivers: 8,250,000
Radio Receivers per 1,000: 929.6
Radio Consumption (minutes per day): 129
Number of Individuals with Computers: 4,500,000
Computers per 1,000: 507.0
Number of Individuals with Internet Access: 4,048,000
Internet Access per 1,000: 456.1
Internet Consumption (minutes per day): 21

Background & General Characteristics

Sweden is officially known as the Kingdom of Sweden and is a constitutional monarchy. Located in northern Europe on the Scandinavian Peninsula between Finland and Norway, Sweden is 449,964 square kilometers, about double the size of the United Kingdom. This area includes 39,030 square kilometers of water, and Sweden's coastline runs 3,218 kilometers. The terrain is flat for the most part with some rolling hills, much forest, and more substantial mountains in western Sweden. The climate is temperate in the South with cold winters and cool summers. The northern part of Sweden experiences a sub-arctic climate. Average temperatures range from 38 degrees Fahrenheit (3.2 degrees Celsius) to 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18.4 degrees Celsius). Annual rainfall averages 385 millimeters.

Modern Sweden is highly industrialized and is known for its progressive social policies. In 2001, the country's population was estimated at 8,875,053 with 65 percent between the ages of 15 and 64 years old, whereas the rest of the population is equally divided between those 14 years of age and younger and those 65 years of age and older. Life expectancy is approximately 80 years, and Sweden has a near zero population growth rate. The country is remarkably homogeneous with 89 percent of the population having a Swedish heritage. Finnish and Saami make up the largest ethnic minorities. The common language is Swedish with small Lapp and Finnish speaking groups. Stockholm is the capitol of the country and has a population of over 700,000. The next largest city is Goteborg with a population near 500,000; Malmo is the third largest city with approximately 250,000 people. More than 83 percent of the population lives in an urban area. Generally, the Swedish economy has been successful and is a combination of capitalism and a substantial welfare system. Sweden emphasizes social welfare, and these programs are the largest expense for the government, followed by expenditures for education and then cultural programs. Swedes pay high taxes, but they receive a wide array of public services and social welfare programs, including national health insurance coverage for all citizens. The quality of health care is excellent, and health care centers are available in every community.

All are guaranteed a minimum standard of living, and income is redistributed over a person's lifetime as Sweden is socialistic and seeks to narrow income gaps. In fact, almost all families are middle class, and poverty is practically unknown. Few explicit displays of wealth can be found, and Swedes tend not to drive fancy sports cars or sport utility vehicles; more than half own Volvos. All citizens receive a basic pension beginning at the age of 65.

At the start of the twenty-first century, high unemployment, a smaller role in world markets, and increased costs have resulted in some economic uncertainty. Even with this economic adversity, Swedes enjoy one of the highest economic and social standards of living in Europe. The Swedish economy has benefited from its extended period of peace and neutrality. Sweden was a military power during the seventeenth century, yet it has not participated in any major armed conflict since that time. During both World Wars, Sweden maintained armed neutrality. Sweden has a highly skilled workforce and utilizes its natural resources, including timber, hydro-power, and iron ore, important to foreign trade. In 2000, services employed 74 percent of the workforce, 24 percent worked in industry, and 2 percent worked in agriculture.

Sweden has extremely progressive family policies. Parents get 12 months of paid leave per child that either partner may use before the child turns eight years old, in addition to tax-free allowances. Communities also offer day care centers and activities for youth. Family unity is strong. Sweden is also known for being quite liberal in its social practices. More that 90 percent of those in Sweden engage in premarital sex, and this is the highest known rate in the world. Drugs are also popular, and Sweden consumes more alcohol per capita than most other countries. Rates of sexually transmitted diseases and alcoholism are quite low though, and very little drug abuse occurs in Sweden. Public transportation abounds with subways, bullet trains, and buses, and most towns are created for walking or bicycling, not car travel.

Sweden cooperates with and shares many cultural similarities with the other Scandinavian countries and was the founding member of the Nordic Council in 1953. Because Sweden was concerned about its political and economic position in Europe at large, it did not enter the European Union until 1995 and did not introduce the Euro until 1999. Although Sweden maintains a hereditary monarchy as head of state, the King was reduced to a ceremonial role with the adoption of a new constitution in 1975. The Parliament and Prime Minister run the government. The citizenry elects members of Parliament, and then the Parliament elects the Prime Minister. Numerous political parties compete for voters, including Social Democrats, Moderates, Left Party, Christian Democrats, Center Party, Liberal Party, and Greens. Swedes are politically active and well educated. The literacy rate approaches 100 percent, and of those 15 years of age and older, 21.3 percent have completed a higher education degree.

The first newspaper published in Sweden is generally considered to be the Ordinari Post Tijender. This paper first appeared in the middle of the seventeenth century. News of the Thirty Years War filled the paper, and the government controlled the content. The press did not become an entity offering information and analysis beyond what the government provided until the next century. The Aftonbladet began publishing in 1830, and was the first newspaper in Sweden to offer news, along with editorial commentary and entertainment. By the beginning of the twenty-first century, Sweden had a wide variety and large number of press publications. More than 10,000 distinct publications exist, including approximately 170 daily newspapers. In fact, Sweden has an especially large number of newspapers available per capita compared to the rest of the world. Some of the largest circulation dailies located in the three largest cities of Stockholm, Malmo and Gothenburg include Aftonbladet, Dagens Nyheter,Expressen,Kvallsposton,Goteborgs-Posten,Metro,Skanska Dagbladet,Sydsvenska Dagbladet, and Svenska Dagbladet. All of these newspapers have easily accessible Web sites. Daily business papers include Dagens Industri and Finanstidningen. The government's Department of Mass Media Policy is responsible for all press and publishing in Sweden.

A major indicator of cultural habits in Sweden is socio-economic status, and years of education, in particular, predict the amount and kind of media use. In 1974, a resolution in Parliament, which was revised in 1996, delineated the goals for cultural policies in Sweden. The thrust of these goals is to provide freedom of expression and the creation of opportunities for all in Sweden to participate in and create their own cultural activities. In addition, cultural pluralism, artistic renewal and artistic quality are national goals. These goals were specifically implemented to counteract negative consequences of commercialism. In fact, Sweden maintained a fairly tightly controlled and state-sponsored broadcast media until the 1990s in order to maintain quality and educational programming. Commercial television was not available in Sweden until an act of Parliament allowed it in 1991, and private commercial radio was not available until 1993. The Swedish broadcast media was originally developed and maintained by the state based on the philosophy that these forms of information dissemination should be a public service to citizens, as opposed to a capitalistic enterprise.

Sweden also prides itself on its adherence to freedom of the press and freedom of speech principles. In fact, Sweden is considered one of the first countries in the world to adopt a freedom of press provision in its constitution. The Parliament established the Freedom of the Press Act when the constitution was ratified in 1766. This Act only covered the printed press so legislation was later enacted that provided for the same freedom of press principles for broadcast media. Sweden is especially vigilant among industrialized countries in its advocacy for press freedoms and its opposition to censorship. The government though does require that journalists work responsibly and adhere to an elaborate code of conduct established by the state.

As in most countries, media forms expanded rapidly in the last 30 years of the twentieth century. Radio, television, and Internet or electronic forms of information distribution have changed not only the structure of media forms but also the content conveyed in Sweden. After the first television broadcast in 1956, a second national television station began in 1969, and the third did not transmit its first broadcast until 1991. In 1997, 169 broadcast stations were available in Sweden, and many more were accessible from foreign broadcasters through cable and satellite transmissions. Moreover, 4.5 million residents of Sweden used the Internet in 2000, and thousands of radio stations and some television channels are available on the Internet. Changes in media use in Sweden have been documented in terms of minutes of use per day from 1970 compared to 1991. For the age group of 9 years old to 79 years old, Swedes spent an average of 50 minutes reading newspapers and magazines in 1970, compared to 44 minutes of reading in 1991. Whereas Swedes listened to the radio an average of 125 minutes each day in 1970, in 1991 they listened to 117 minutes of radio each day. Unlike newspaper reading and radio listening, television viewing increased during this time period. In 1970, Swedes watched an average of 95 minutes of television each day. By 1991, the number of viewing minutes increased to 117 minutes on average.

Economic Framework

Newspapers receive government subsidies in order to provide for a diverse media. The Press Subsidy Board provides grants directly to newspapers. Newspapers and other periodicals also may apply for an exemption from tax, a substantial benefit with the standard tax rate at 25 percent. Newspapers received SK 480 million in 1995. More than 200 cultural periodicals received SK 19 million in 1995. In May of 2002, Bjoern Rosengren, the Minister for Industrial Affairs, recommended that the government develop a subsidy program for Swedes who want broadband connections for high-speed Internet connections. The government had launched a program in 1997 that offered a tax rebate for the purchase of personal computers. Along these lines, Rosengren proposed that a government subsidy would stimulate broadband connections across the country. In particular, he argued that people should not be required to pay more than E 33 each month for broadband so any costs beyond that should be covered by the central government. Broadband connections provided by United Pan-European Communications cost E 30 per month in 2002. Bredbandsbolaget charges E 33 a month, and Telia charges E 38 a month for its broadband service.

Television broadcasting in Sweden began as a monopoly and was intended to be a service to the general public, so advertising was not permitted. Instead, license fees provided financial support for stations, and these fees still contribute to the support of some stations. Radio also began as a monopoly. Like television, license fees rather than advertising supported it. Local commercial radio in Sweden only began in 1993. Economically, the cultural policy goals created by Parliament in 1996 reflect a desire to decentralize the administration and financing of cultural activities in the country. No regional structure exists for that, but the 24 county councils and 288 municipalities do participate in the funding of cultural activities and are expected to take more control over cultural development in their communities. Additionally, these national cultural goals specifically express a concern about commercialism. Sweden, compared to other industrialized countries, was late to commercial its radio and television broadcasts. Both radio and television have operated under quite traditional values of public service to the community so private broadcasts supported by commercials were not allowed until the 1990s.

A major economic concern about media in Sweden is the concentration of ownership. In 1999, the Media Concentration Committee suggested legislation that would counteract the concentration of ownership and power within Swedish media enterprises. Expressing concern for a free and wide distribution of information, ideas, opinions and debate, the committee suggestions included a specific law about the concentration of ownership in the most influential media forms, including newspapers, radio, and television. Public service companies and educational radio would not be included in the legislation. The law would cover private and other public companies, including foreign companies active in Sweden. The committee was especially concerned about cable companies who, according to the committee, hold a near monopoly. Although competition legislation generally requires constitutional changes, the committee proposed a new clause in radio and television law that would make it illegal to require conditions in connection agreements that restrict rights to install or use different cable television connections or to install a satellite dish. These rules took effect on January of 2000, whereas those requiring constitutional review are to be enacted in January of 2003.

Press Laws

The press is subject to Sweden's Code of Ethics for Press, Radio and Television. The code ensures that the press has as much freedom as possible to disseminate the news and offer critiques of social and governmental policies within the limits of the Freedom of the Press Act and relevant constitutional rights to freedom of speech. The code also exists to ensure that the press behaves responsibly with their power to disseminate information. Accurate and objective reporting is called for in this code as the press needs to be accountable to the general public. Sources should be checked carefully even if facts have been previously published. Pictures need to be authentic, and any retouching or electronic alterations of pictures should be reported next to the image. Graphs, illustrations, and pictures need to be accurate and should not be presented in a misleading manner. Headlines should be supported by the text of the story. Any errors should be corrected in a timely manner, and corrections should be presented in a way that attracts those who were likely to have been exposed to the errors. Those wishing to rebut information presented should be provided with an opportunity to do so.

The code protects an individual's right to privacy and from unwarranted suffering. In this regard, the press is expected not to interfere with an individual's privacy unless it is clearly in the public interest to do so. Notices of suicide are to be published with great caution. Victims of crimes or accidents should also be considered and respected. Names and pictures need to be checked carefully so as not to cause harm to relatives. When an individual's race, sex, nationality, occupation, political affiliation or religious persuasion are not important to the story, the press is expected not to emphasize these statuses.

Good journalistic practice is primarily the responsibility of the Swedish Press Council and the Press Ombudsman. When the Press Council rules on an infraction, the council produces a brief report that is then published in trade journals, including Pressens Tdining (PressJournal ) and Journalisten (The Journalist ). Anyone can subscribe to the rulings of the Press Council through the Swedish Newspaper Publishers' Association (Tidningsutgivarna). Additionally, if a newspaper is censured by the Swedish Press Council, that paper is obligated to report it. The Press Council does not address programming.

The Swedish Radio and TV Authority is the government agency that legally regulates broadcast media. The director of the Authority is appointed by the government and has executive powers. A supervisory council appointed by the government oversees the activities of the Authority because it has so much power in the media arena in Sweden. The Authority grants licenses for radio transmissions and registers all who engage in broadcasting based on the provisions of the Radio and TV Act. It approves cable-broadcasting companies and makes proposals to the government about such things as how licenses for digital terrestrial television should be distributed. The Authority also regulates television standards and has the power to sanction media entities that violate Swedish media rules or laws.

The Swedish Broadcasting Commission is another governmental agency responsible for enforcing broadcast media laws. This commission is specifically responsible for enforcing radio and television programming policies. Television and radio transmissions are legally regulated by the Fundamental Law on Freedom of Expression of 1991 along with the Radio and Television Act of 1996 and other related legislation. The commission reviews program content for compliance with these laws regulating broadcasts and with the licenses given to broadcasters by the government. All Swedish television and radio broadcasts that serve the public, which includes local, regional or national broadcasts, are regulated. This commission also examines programming in Sweden that is distributed by foreign sources via satellite. These transmissions are regulated by the rules adopted by the European Union member countries. The commission often reviews programming in response to citizen complaints. No fee is charged to lodge a complaint, but the complainant must provide identifying information. Sometimes, the Director of the Commission initiates program reviews. In addition, this commission conducts and reports on research about the content of television and radio broadcasts in Sweden.

The public service broadcasters in Sweden are the most regulated. These include Swedish Television (SVT), Swedish Radio (SR), and Swedish Educational Broadcasting (UR). These companies are expected to broadcast accurately and with impartiality. Any impact that programs may have must be carefully considered before being broadcast. Attention to representations of sex, violence, drug use, and to content that discriminates against people on the basis of gender or ethnicity is required. These companies, along with consideration of the form and scheduling of the presentation must carefully evaluate the impact of such programming. In addition, they are expected to respect the privacy of individuals and are obligated to other public service activities, such as offering good quality programming, a large variety of program options, and programming that represents the needs and interests of minority communities or views. Investigative news, art, science, and religious programming are expected from these broadcasters. Programming also must be available for those who are partially deaf or visually impaired. Some of these regulations also apply to TV4, a national commercial broadcaster, and TV4 is also subject to the regulations concerning advertisements and sponsors. SVT, SR, and UR are not allowed to include commercial advertising. Sweden is also fairly unique in its ban on advertising aimed at children under the age of 12. Sweden argues that young children cannot differentiate between programming and advertising. This law came under review by the European Union, and the European Court of Justice ruled that the ban should only be applied to those who actually broadcast from Sweden. In other words, broadcasters from other countries may include advertising directed toward children in their programming that is available in Sweden. Cigarette and alcohol advertising is also illegal in Sweden.


Sweden prides itself on it free press and has been a strong advocate for freedom of the press around the world. Most of the Swedish censorship laws concern violence, and presenting some scenes of violence is considered a criminal offense. However, despite the clarity and consistency of Sweden's policies against censorship, freedom of the press does experience some challenges. For example, conflict and even violence related to press freedoms made 1996 an unusually troubling year for the media in Sweden, the worst since World War II. Neo-Nazis attempted to intimidate newspaper staff and distributors of Expo, an antiracist newspaper. Newspaper stand windows were broken, and Expo 's printers were stopped from producing the paper. Journalists from other papers rallied around Expo and ensured its survival. Additionally, after the newspaper with the largest circulation in Sweden, Expressen, published an exposé on the criminal activities of a biker gang, the editor and several journalists received death threats and required police protection. In 1996, when another newspaper and magazine received death threats from biker gangs, they stopped their investigative reports on the gangs. Other newspapers have left journalists' bylines off of biker gang related pieces. Other journalists were intimidated by a gang from covering a trial of a biker charged with attempted murder. Only one of the three news groups threatened chose to press charges against the gang.

By 1999, in a concerted effort to combat intimidation by Neo-Nazi groups, the four largest newspapers in the country, Expressen,Aftonbladet,Svenska Dagbladet, and Dagens Nyheter, published the same article and editorials about Neo-Nazi groups in Sweden and included pictures of 61 people thought to be affiliated with Neo-Nazi organizations. The Prime Minister supported this action and reaffirmed Sweden's commitment to a free and unencumbered press. Another example of Sweden's concern about censorship and a free press system occurred in 2000. Sweden was one of only three countries that voted not to classify documents related to the security and defense of the European Union.

Newspapers tend not to publish pictures of individuals who have been murdered or killed in accidents to avoid trauma to victims' families. However, in 2000, the Sydsvenska Dagbladet violated this informal rule by publishing a picture of a man who was shot to death. Although the man's face was not shown, the Press Ombudsman presented the case to the Swedish Press Council. The council concluded that publishing that picture was a violation of the ethical code of conduct for journalists. However, in 2001 the Supreme Court in Sweden confirmed the importance of freedom of expression in a celebrated case in which an individual published the names and other personal information of bank officials that he claimed stole his company. The court ruled that the individual was acting in a journalistic capacity in that he was offering the information to the public and relating his personal experience, as opposed to violating the privacy of the bank personnel. The court reaffirmed Sweden's intent to live by the principle supported by the European Court of Human Rights that allows even shocking and offensive materials to be freely expressed. In 1999, the central government initiated a parliamentary-based commission charged with examining basic issues related to freedom of the press and freedom of speech. This commission was deemed necessary because of the many advances in information technology. More specifically, the commission was to explore basic freedom of speech protections that would work across the various methods of transmission or technological developments in information dissemination.

The major threat to freedom of the press in Sweden is the concentration of ownership of the major media in the country. Schibsted, a large Norwegian media organization, holds substantial interest in two of the four largest daily newspapers in the country, with 88.6 percent ownership of Svenska Dagbladet and 49.9 percent ownership of Aftonbladet. Bonnier, a large Swedish media organization, owns the other two largest dailies, and also owns GT and Kvallsposten, two additional Swedish dailies.

State-Press Relations

The government and public service radio and television companies have agreements that regulate broadcasts and programming. These companies are expected to serve the public interest, and the government requires a certain amount of variety, education, and quality in their programming. Moreover, although the owners of the three public service companies in radio and television are popular movements, such as labor unions, consumer groups, and religious organizations (60 percent), commerce and industry (20 percent), and the press (20 percent), each of these public service companies have regional organizations, and the government nominates members to most of the governing bodies for these companies. In addition, although each company is responsible for programming and production, they are also restricted by governmental broadcasting laws. However, the state is supportive of press freedoms, and the central government has initiated much legislation designed to promote and encourage an open and free press. In fact, the ethical code for journalists in Sweden requires that journalists offer a critical view of governmental legislation and policies. Government records and correspondence are fully available to the media and the general public.

The government also offers subsidies to newspapers to encourage competition and the availability of alternative views in as many communities as possible. The philosophy of the state in terms of the press is that it provides society with an efficient means of communication and debate, and both are necessary for an informed citizenry and an effective democratic society. The state then is supportive of the principles of a free press, but it also plays a large role in what is broadcast in Sweden.

Attitude toward Foreign Media

Foreign media are welcomed in Sweden, and several foreign news agencies have bureaus in Stockholm. In fact, the open door policy on governmental records applies to anyone who wants to view them, including foreign media. Foreign media do not need any special licenses or accreditation. News flows freely both in and out of Sweden. Sweden has attempted to limit some foreign cable and satellite stations to the restrictions placed on Swedish broadcasting companies, but even these efforts have not succeeded as the European Council has essentially ruled that broadcast entities housed in Sweden must operate based on Swedish law, but foreign-based broadcasting companies are not subject to Swedish laws, for example those prohibiting advertising targeted to children.

News Agencies

Several news agencies serve and work out of Sweden. Agence France-Presse has a regional headquarters in Stockholm with additional Nordic branches in Copenhagen, Oslo, Helsinki, and Reykjavic. News from the Nordic is presented every hour by this group of journalists, located across the region. This news is presented in seven languages and includes stories about economic, health, political, sports and technological developments. News Agency Direkt originated in 1988 and serves financial markets in Sweden. Coverage focuses on market movement, corporate news and earnings, and financial forecasts. FLT Media AB is owned by 67 local and non-political newspapers that serve 86 different presses. The International News Service is a for-profit news agency that provides Swedish business news, including information about new products and business innovations. In 1985, Reuters opened a Nordic and Baltic regional bureau with headquarters located in Stockholm. This bureau represents eight countries and provides regional business and news of international interest. More than 42 journalists work in this bureau. The major Swedish news agency is Tidningarnas Telegrambyra. All broadcast media and newspapers in Sweden patronize this news agency that includes news from Sweden and around the world, along with features and information about business, sports, and economic conditions in Sweden and elsewhere.

Broadcast Media


Television was first broadcast in Sweden in 1956, as a result of a decision by the Parliament to develop television for the public. A second station was not added until 1969, and a third (TV4) came into existence in 1991. TV4 is an independent entity that is financed commercially. The central antenna system was the basis for cable television in Sweden. In the 1960s and 1970s, many newly constructed apartment buildings had these systems installed. In 1984, a law allowed for the reception of satellite broadcasts through cable. This led to a rapid expansion of the cable television market. Private commercial cable channels have been legal in Sweden since 1992. By the late 1990s, the market for cable stagnated as almost all multi-family residences had cable installed. Some 88 percent of households have access to either cable or satellite television. Tella Kabel TV, Kabelvision, Stjarn-TV and Sweden Online are the four largest cable television operators in the country. There were 4.6 million televisions and 169 distinct broadcast stations in Sweden in1997. Besides the public service stations, Swedes have access to primarily news channels, including STV24 and TV9. Of course, Swedes have access to such channels as pay-per-view, pay movie, Nickelodeon, MTV Scandinavia, and MTV Sweden as well.

Television is distributed through a terrestrial network, a cable network, and satellites. Both analog and digital technologies existed in Sweden in 2002. Analog transmissions require a license from the government, and three companies held analog terrestrial transmission licenses in 1997. All three, Sveriges Television AB, the Swedish Educational Broadcasting company (Utbildningsradion), and TV4 AB, broadcast nationwide. In 1999, digital transmissions on the terrestrial network began. Applications for licenses for such digital transmissions are prepared by the Swedish Radio and TV Authority with the central government deciding on the distribution of licenses. These digital terrestrial transmissions licenses have been granted to 14 companies.

Satellites are used for television transmissions and for telecommunications. The television satellites are geo-stationary, meaning they stay in a single place on the ground. Satellite television transmissions then occur in one of three ways. Transmissions are carried via satellite between two ground stations, they are carried between a ground station and a cable or broadband network, and they are carried between a ground station and individual subscribers (Direct-To-Home transmissions). Cable networks were upgraded to allow for satellite transmissions beginning in 1984, and this accelerated the growth of the cable industry.

In 2000, more than 2.6 million homes were connected to a cable network. The Swedish Radio and TV Authority appoint local cable companies, but no licenses are required. The tremendous growth in the information technology industry has contributed to the services offered by cable television companies. In addition to traditional television transmissions, cable services include video-on-demand and connections to the Internet. Cable networks offer either a further transmission or an original transmission. A further transmission is not altered and occurs simultaneously as it is received from a transmitter on the earth or from a satellite. An original transmission comes directly from the source, a studio for example. Such transmissions may be local, such as from The Open Channel in Gothenburg, Fridhem Folk High School, or the HSB's Tenant Owners' Association. TV21 offers original nationwide transmissions. Television consumers have mostly further transmission channels. The legislation associated with cable transmissions is included in the fundamental law on freedom of expression in 1991 and related laws. This fundamental law gives all Swedish citizens the right to transmit programs using cable. Specifics about such cable transmissions are delineated in the Swedish Radio and TV Act of 1996. This act contains regulations for both radio and television programs intended for the general public and received with the use of advanced technology.

In Sweden, satellites were first used for communications. When satellite capacity increased, television pictures could be shared between national television companies. With increased power in the 1980s, the number of direct satellite broadcasts to the general public increased substantially. Satellites receive transmissions from the ground and send them back to the ground in a designated area. Transponders are built into the satellite and vary in their capacity or bandwidth. Between 20 and 40 transponders are contained in a single satellite. One transponder may be devoted to an analog channel, whereas a single transponder can transmit 6 to 10 digital channels. A parabolic aerial is needed to receive satellite channels, and digital transmissions require a digital TV-box or decoder. Satellite transmissions are regulated by the 1991 fundamental law on freedom of expression, the Radio and TV Act of 1996, and an ordinance created by the Swedish Radio and TV Authority. The authority specifically addressed standards for television transmission signals, and the Swedish Consumer Agency supervises the standards for consumer television receivers.

Digital terrestrial television was introduced in stages in Sweden in order for the government to determine if and how digital transmissions should occur. Digital terrestrial television was first allowed in the spring of 1997 with an act of the Swedish Parliament. Transmissions actually began in April of 1999 with a limited number of areas allowed to receive digital transmissions. These areas included Stockholm, Northern Ostergotland, Gothenburg, and Sundsvall. More than half of all Swedes were capable of receiving digital terrestrial transmissions in 1999, and the Parliament agreed in November of 2000 to extend the coverage to the entire country. By the end of 2002, 98 percent of the population could receive digital transmissions. Digital technology uses combinations of ones and zeros to represent pictures and sound. It allows for more digital channels in the same space as an analog channel, and digital channels are not as sensitive to transmission disturbances as analog channels. Digital technology also requires less energy to distribute and offers more interactive capabilities. Sweden has been targeted for testing of the latest innovations in media, such as interactive television.


The first radio transmission in Sweden was in 1921. The Swedish Broadcasting Corporation (Sveriges Radio) and the Swedish Educational Broadcasting Company (Utbildningsradion) are the only nationwide companies that provide radio broadcasts. In 1979, community radio stations were permitted to broadcast within specific geographical areas on a trial basis. Community radio is for local and nonprofit groups and is intended as a public service and an important means of communication. Sixteen locations took advantage of the opportunity to provide community radio during the first three years it was allowed in Sweden. Community radio became permanent in 1986, and the number of licenses given by the Swedish Radio and TV Authority for community radio increased steadily for the next two years. However, since 1988 the number of licenses has declined dramatically. There were 2,200 community radio license holders in 1991, but just 1,160 license holders in 2000. The Radio and TV Act of 1998 included provisions to promote community radio. Provisions included removing the transmission time fees and the requirement that an association have a main activity beyond community radio. The Act also allowed for transmission across larger areas beyond a local municipality. With these changes, community radio is once again expanding.

Local commercial radio only began in the 1990s after years of debate in the Swedish Parliament (Riksdagen). In 1993, the Parliament allowed advertisement-financed local radio broadcasts and required a license from the Swedish Radio and TV Authority to transmit local commercial radio. The first few years of local commercial radio were quite turbulent with numerous changes in format and ownership. Most stations seem to have settled on a primarily music format aimed at specific audiences. Radio Sweden offers broadcasts in nine languages to include minority group listeners. The government approved digital sound radio transmissions, also known as Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) in 1995. This is the most recent innovation in radio in Sweden. This radio technology allows for better sound, fewer disturbances, and access to more programs. No simply a new transmission technology, DAB also reduces the distinctions between television and radio and allows for interactivity. DAB is available to about 85 percent of households in Sweden, but very few people have DAB receivers. Transmission of DAB requires a government license. The government has issued DAB licenses to the Swedish Broadcasting Corporation (Sveriges Radio AB) and the Swedish Educational Broadcasting Corporation Company (Utbildningsradion AB). No private broadcasting companies have a DAB license in Sweden, and in fact, when addressing this issue in 1999, the central government decided not to issue DAB licenses to private companies. In terms of DAB, Sweden uses one national frequency block and 19 regional blocks. Radio is usually transmitted with the terrestrial network, but may be distributed through cable and by satellite. Both analog and digital radio technology are used for radio transmissions. Swedes owned 8.25 million radios in 1997, and had 1 AM, 265 FM, and 1 short-wave radio broadcast stations.

The Swedish Broadcasting Commission is the central government authority responsible for radio and television programs in the country. This commission reviews program content for compliance with laws regulating broadcasts and with the licenses given to broadcasters by the government. Licensing broadcast media operations is the responsibility of the Swedish Radio and TV Authority. This government authority grants licenses for radio transmissions and registers everyone who engages in broadcasting. The authority also provides information about new developments in media for the government and any interested parties. The authority analyzes existing statistics about media and surveys the needs of users. It also collects and publishes its own statistics about the media, and obtains and publishes other media related information, regarding such issues as ownership, financial stability, technology in the industry, and the structure of the media. Publications by the authority occur every year and have included Developments in the Media Field 2000 and A Guide to Digital Television. All books are free and can be ordered by simply contacting the authority. Finally, the authority provides a media database that can be accessed through its Web site. Swedish citizens or any interested party can analyze the media related data collected by the authority.

Electronic News Media

Internet is the newest form of media in Sweden. Twenty-nine Internet Service Providers operated in Sweden in 2000. More than 4.5 million residents of Sweden used the Internet by 2000. Thousands of Swedish radio stations are available on the Internet. The Swedish Broadcasting Corporation is aired on the Internet, as are local commercial stations. Streaming, a technology that allows the transmission to take place in real time and does not transfer or save the data to the consumers' computer hard drive, is available in Sweden. The most common streaming formats used in Sweden are RealPlayer (RealNet-works), Media Player (Microsoft) and Quicktime (Apple). and nighttime radio transmissions of the newspaper aftonbladet are two examples of this. Radio Sweden offers broadcasts in six languages to the rest of the world via the Internet, short wave radio, local relays and satellite. News from Sweden and the entire Nordic region is posted every weekday to Radio Sweden's Web site. Daily headlines are also available by e-mail and mobile telephones. Special MP3 receivers are available in Sweden that allow the user to download music from radio broadcasts.

Television broadcasts are also available on the Internet in real time with streaming technology. The quality of the picture and sound depends on the quality of the receiver's connection. Theoretically, the quality available to viewers in Sweden with broadband technology is limitless. Many newspapers are published on the Internet in Sweden as well. According to the "database rule" of the Freedom of Expression Act (Chapter 1, article 9), someone acceptable to the government must be assigned responsibility for electronically distributed information.

Education & Training

Higher education in Sweden follows nine years of elementary school (grundskola ) and between two and four years of secondary school (gymnasieskola ). Since the 1970s, the higher education system in Sweden has been unified. Thirteen universities and some 20 other institutions of higher education exist throughout the country and are considered regional institutions of higher education. The Parliament has established study programs for undergraduate education, and these programs are based on a point system, with one point representing one week of full-time study with an academic year consisting of 40 points. Full programs usually consist of between 120 and 160 points, or between three and four years of study. An advanced degree usually takes an additional four years after the completion of an undergraduate degree. Dissertation research is defended in public and the completion of a graduate program results in a doctor's degree (doktorsexamen ).

Stockholm University offers extensive programs in journalism. In 1989, the university's School of Journalism was combined with the Unit for Media and Cultural Theory to form the new Department of Media and Cultural Theory. The intent was to include all education and research related to journalism, mass communications, and information studies under one unified department. This department offers an undergraduate degree in journalism in addition to an undergraduate degree in media and communication studies. The journalism undergraduate offerings are divided into two programs. One requires 140 points and results in a journalism degree, and the other requires 40 points of study in journalism taken in conjunction with studies for an undergraduate degree in another subject. Both programs are considered professional degrees and qualify recipients to work as journalists in Sweden. Both programs provide journalism skills, critical theory, and knowledge of society. Students study the history of journalism, mass media rhetoric, visual communication, journalism in society, media studies and law, journalistic research methods, and global electronic journalism. Specific course teachings include using electronic sources and publishing electronically on the Internet. The media and communication studies undergraduate program examines different forms of communication in society and the role of mass media. The program consists of unique courses including a basic course, a continuation course, an advanced course and a master's course for a total of 80 points. This is a multi-disciplinary program that is theoretical and analytical, and includes the methods and theories of the human and social sciences. Students have the opportunity to concentrate in planned communication, mass communication, or popular culture. Those interested in becoming information workers generally concentrate on planned communication. Each concentration prepares students for a variety of jobs in the media and communication fields.

Many types of research occur in the department. One concerns media texts or the content and form of expression used in the media. Among these investigators, texts are viewed as artifacts or cultural expressions. In other research, texts are regarded as journalistic products, and research addresses how media is received by the public, and in particular, what media is used and how the public responds to it. Research in this area may take a variety of approaches, involving such fields as social psychology, cognitive theories, ethnographic analyses, and cultural studies. Several studies address youth culture and how media helps to create and maintain youth subcultures. The history and structure of the media are also researched, including studies of media ownership and the relationship between government and media. Finally, the department includes research opportunities and development projects related to the practice of journalism. In particular, research explores the impact of rapidly developing technological innovations in media and how these innovations affect the activities of journalists.

Two postgraduate communications programs are available at Stockholm University, one in Journalism and the other in Media and Communication Studies. Both programs have similar goals and structure, and in fact, the programs are more integrated with each other at the doctoral level then at the undergraduate level. All qualified students may conduct research in either area, and some of the same courses are required in both programs. Admission to these programs requires a minimum of 120 Swedish university points or the equivalent as recognized by the Swedish Ministry of Education, and a major in journalism or communication studies of at least 80 university points. In addition, a bachelor's or master's thesis must have been completed before admittance to these programs. Some applicants with social science or humanities degrees who have attained some proficiency in journalism or communication studies may be deemed qualified for the programs. Both postgraduate programs require 160 university points, with 100 of those points associated with the dissertation and 60 points coming from course work. The primary purpose of the courses is to improve students' knowledge and understanding of media issues. Media theory and research methods are two of the required courses for both programs and are worth 10 points each. The other 40 points of coursework come from specially arranged courses by the department. The dissertation is an independent study of importance to the journalism or communications fields. It may be a single extensive study or a series of scientific papers.

Mid-Sweden University also has extensive undergraduate and graduate programs for journalism training. The university's Department of Media and Communication was founded in 1990 and serves students with communication and journalism occupational aspirations. The department also conducts research on media and communication concerns.

Although journalists are not required to have any specific education or training to engage in journalistic activities, a bachelor's degree is generally sufficient for the acquisition of a traditional journalist position. A doctoral degree in journalism is primarily intended for those interested in advanced training and research activities in a specific media arena. Working journalists receive continual training provided by the Press Institute. This institute is owned and managed by a combination of journalism employers and actual journalists. Training typically occurs in newsrooms throughout Sweden and usually address recent developments in the field. The Swedish Newspaper Publishers' Association is a trade organization that provides information and support for publishers and other media companies in Sweden. Journalists are supported and represented by the Swedish Union of Journalists ( This professional and union organization works with journalists who have a Swedish employer and has over 18,000 members.


Sweden has a press that is as rich and varied as any in the world. This country is well known among the international press for its high quality news and reporting. Sweden has stood out with its highly literate public and a press engaged in world events that is encouraged, even required, to report the whole story along with critical commentary. However, some fear that with the legalization of commercially funded broadcasts, Sweden's press will become a victim of the global economy. Sweden has lasted longer than most in its effort to maintain a diversity of ideas and competition among its newspapers and in its effort to provide educational and informative radio and television broadcasts to its citizens. Although Sweden charged the public a license fee for television broadcasts, the public received news programs and documentaries of the highest quality in terms of depth of analysis, critical content, and production. However, as commercial stations challenged these license-funded stations for viewers, the public service stations needed to maintain viewers to maintain their funding so they began copying the format of commercial stations. They now offer less analysis and less depth in their news reporting and include more entertainment-oriented information. Thus, even though Sweden maintains many commercial-free stations, they are reflective of popular commercial culture, instead of offering a critique of it.

In 2002, the public service broadcasters in Sweden compete with American situation comedies that are subtitled and American talk shows. Even newspapers from America are available in Sweden, including USA Today and the Wall Street Journal 's European edition. Like the availability of Coca-Cola and McDonald's hamburgers around the world, for better or worse, the media in Sweden is becoming more similar to the media in other industrialized countries. Nonetheless, Sweden is still a forerunner in freedom of the press issues and in its governmental action to limit concentration of ownership in media to provide the people of Sweden with a diversity of perspectives. Finally, international media critics expect that if this globalization of media is halted or reversed anywhere, it is likely to be in Sweden where the government maintains an active role in media and the philosophy that broadcast media should serve the public good.

Significant Dates

  • 1776: Parliament establishes the Freedom of the Press Act in the country's constitution.
  • 1830: The Aftonbladet begins publishing. It was the first newspaper in the country to offer news, along with editorial commentary and entertainment.
  • 1921: The first radio transmission is sent.
  • 1956: Television is broadcast for the first time.
  • 1991: Parliament allows commercial television.
  • 1993: Private commercial radio becomes available.
  • 1999: The Media Concentration Committee advocates counteracting the concentration of ownership and power within Swedish media enterprises.
  • 2001: In a well-publicized legal case, the Supreme Court confirms the importance of freedom of expression, allowing an individual to use the Internet to publish names and other personal information about bank personnel he contends stole his company.


Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). "Sweden Communications 2001." The World Factbook 2001. Available at

Schechter, Danny. "Sleepless in Stockholm: Dissecting the Media in Sweden." News Dissector. 16 March 2000. Available at

"Sweden: Code of Ethics for Press, Radio and Television." International Journalists' Network. Available at

"Sweden." World Press Freedom Review. Available at

"Virtual Sweden: Broadcast Media." Swedish Institute, 21 December 2001. Available at

Melanie Moore

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Kingdom of Sweden

Konungariket Sverige



Located in northern Europe, in the eastern part of the Scandinavian peninsula, Sweden is bordered on the west and northwest by Norway, on the northeast by Finland, on the east by the Baltic Sea and its arm, the Gulf of Bothnia, On the southwest, Sweden is separated from Denmark by the Skagerrak, Kattegat, and Ôresund straits that connect the Baltic and the North Seas. The fourth largest country in Europe, Sweden has an area of 449,964 square kilometers (173,731 square miles), slightly larger than California. The area also includes 39,030 square kilometers (15,070 square miles) of inland water pools, mostly lakes. The capital city of Stockholm is situated in the southeast, on waterways and islands between Lake Malaren and the Baltic Sea. Other major cities include Göteborg in the southwest; Malmö in the south, and Uppsala, Linköping, Ôrebro, and Norrköping in the southeast.


The population of Sweden was estimated at 8,873,052 in July 2000 with an annual growth rate of 0.02 percent. The immigration rate is 0.86 per 1,000 population. Population density is one of the lowest in Europe, with about 20 persons per square kilometer (52 per square mile). Due to the cold northern climate, the great majority of the population lives in the south, especially in the central lowlands and the coastal areas. Large parts of the north and the mountains are very sparsely inhabited. Some 83 percent of Sweden's population is urban. The population, as in most of Europe, is aging, and with a high life expectancy of 79.58 years at birth (76.95 for men and 82.37 for women). The median age increased to 41 years in 1999 from 38.4 five years earlier. Some 17.2 percent of the population is 14 years old and younger, and 18.7 percent are 65 or older. The fertility rate was 1.53 children per woman, far below the replacement threshold of 2.1. In 1999, polls showed that more young and educated Swedes were prone to leave their country and settle elsewhere than were their counterparts in most of western Europe.

Like the other Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, and Norway), Sweden is still ethnically homogenous (similar). Its population is Scandinavian of Germanic descent. Most Swedes speak English and have cultural and family ties to the United States. Minorities include a small number of ethnic Finns and about 17,000 semi-nomadic Lapps (Saami) in the north; there are also more than half a million first generation immigrants, including Finns, Norwegians, Danes, former Yugoslavs, Greeks, Turks, Iranians, Chileans, and others. In the 1990s, Sweden received a large number of refugees from the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo (the former Yugoslavia), and since the mid-1980s, it also has received numerous ethnic Kurdish immigrants from the Middle East. Some 87 percent of Swedes are Lutherans, and there are small numbers of Roman Catholics, Orthodox Christians, Baptists, Muslims, Jews, and Buddhists.

Historically, Sweden's social welfare system has been extensive, insuring that all citizens receive old-age pensions, health and unemployment insurance, and disability benefits. Special provisions include generous subsidies to families raising children, such as parental benefits, and subsidized low-rent housing. Higher living standards, as elsewhere, have restricted population growth over the 1990s.


Sweden is among the leading economies of the world. Once a major European military power, the Nordic country has not waged any wars for more than 180 years. Instead, while enjoying the fruits of peace and neutrality, it has achieved impressive economic and social results under a unique mixed system of high-technology capitalism and extensive social-welfare benefits. With an educated and highly efficient labor force , Sweden has developed a world-class manufacturing sector with advanced communications. The country provides excellent conditions for scientific innovation, and the size of its investments in research and development is about 4 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP), or more than twice the average in western Europe. Sweden is a world leader in terms of the number of patents it holds and of the relative weight of the technology sector in its economy. Timber, hydropower, and rich iron ore, with which Sweden is abundantly endowed, make up the traditional resource base of an economy that has been predominantly export-oriented. For a long time after World War II, the country has been considered as a perfect example of an economically prosperous democratic society with an equitable distribution of wealth, generous social benefits, and an enviable living standard for the majority of the population. Although the country encountered some economic difficulties in the early 1990s, by 1995 it was still second only to Switzerland in terms of its GDP per capita , and by the end of the decade it was growing faster than most of western Europe.

During the 1990s, this extraordinarily successful economy was somewhat disturbed by budgetary problems, a bank crisis, and rising inflation and unemployment, combined with high personal taxes and a gradual decline of its competitiveness in international markets. The lack of venture capital (money needed to start a business) to support new business ideas and the high tax rate on individual entrepreneurs are thought to have diluted Sweden's full capacity for economic innovation before the late 1990s. Also, low labor mobility (the willingness of the workers to relocate to areas with higher demands for labor) has been considered as an impediment to effectively combating unemployment. The government is trying to address these problems. Analyzing Sweden's economic problems in the late 1990s, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Organization on Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) have commended the country's overall economic management, its budget consolidation, and its monetary policy , but pointed out that structural reforms will still be needed particularly to increase labor market flexibility and to lower individual taxes.

After Sweden joined the European Union (EU) in 1995, its efforts to meet the group's rigorous standards caused some additional economic strains. Some political indecision over the country's role in the political and economic integration of Europe had prevented it from joining the EU at an earlier stage and from becoming a charter member of the European economic and monetary union (EMU) in 1999. Sweden has not yet decided to switch to the single euro currency and transfer control over its monetary issues to the European Central Bank (ECB) as 11 other EU members did in 1999. It has harmonized, however, its economic policies and regulations with those of the EU, and Sweden's government plans to hold a referendum in the future on whether the country should join the EMU.

Sweden is one of the world's most attractive countries for foreign investors. Apart from offering a favorable business climate, a strong domestic market, an advanced high-tech sector, a qualified labor force, optimal management skills, and generous " welfare-state " benefits, it also offers the second lowest corporate tax rate in Europe. Foreign direct investment in the 1990s has increased more than elsewhere in Europe. Between 1990 and 1997, the number of foreign companies active in Sweden has increased by almost one-half. In 1997, foreign-owned firms (mostly from Finland and the United States) employed more than 14 percent of the labor force. Although Sweden's economy is relative small, in 1998 it had 29 out of the 500 largest companies in Europeby far the highest number per capita in the continent. Swedish managers are also reckoned among the world's leaders in terms of their international experience and their language skills.


Like its Nordic neighbors Norway and Denmark, Sweden is a constitutional monarchy. It is essentially a mature, multi-party parliamentary democracy, governed under a 1975 constitution that removed the last vestiges of royal power, included an extensive bill of rights, and declared that all power emanated from the people. Executive power is vested in the Cabinet, elected by parliament and consisting of the prime minister, the head of government, and 20 cabinet ministers. The monarch remains officially the head of state, an exclusively ceremonial post, but is no longer the commander-in-chief of the armed forces and does not chair the cabinet meetings. Succession to the throne was opened to women in 1980. Legislative power is vested in a unicameral parliament (Riksdag) with 349 seats whose members are elected for 4-year terms on a proportional basis by universal suffrage. After elections in September 1998, the seats were distributed as follows: Social Democrats (131), Moderates (82), the Left Party (43), Christian Democrats (42), the Center Party (18), the Liberal Party (17), and the Greens (16).

The Social Democratic Party, which had been Sweden's ruling party since World War II, regained office in the 1994 elections. With its traditional ties to the trade-union movement, it has made reducing unemployment a top priority, and stands for a strong public sector . Blue-collar workers and public-sector employees form its base. The conservative Moderate Party demands minimum involvement by the government, lower taxes, public assistance for private industry and business, and a strong defense. The Left Party has socialist and communist traditions and normally supports the Social Democratic government, but it opposes EU membership fearing that European integration and regulations would jeopardize benefits for Swedish workers. The Christian Democratic Party supports a traditional values-based government, is strongly anti-abortion, and pleads for greater support for families in order to fight youth problems, alcoholism, and crime. It demands more aid to developing countries and a more liberal immigration policy.

An important priority for Social Democratic prime minister Goran Persson and his party in 2000 was convincing the Swedish population of the benefits of the EMU. The party had officially adopted a pro-membership policy, but its argument that Sweden had to join the single currency on purely economic grounds sounded less convincing in late 2000, as the country's economy was growing faster than those who had joined the EMU in 1999. Other factors also discouraged a national consensus in favor of the EMU: Sweden's tradition of restricting alcohol use by administrative means conflicted with the EU's trade liberalization rules, and the EU's unhappiness with the intended merger between the 2 large Swedish truck makers, Volvo and Scania.

Denmark's decision to stay out of the EMU membership also weakened popular support for a similar move in Sweden. Many ordinary Swedes are suspicious about further European integration and worry about its impact on their generally healthy economy and its traditional welfare programs, as are the Danes. Businesspeople in Sweden, on the other hand, are unified in support of EMU membership, citing the benefits of a stable exchange rate for their trade with the euro zone (countries that have adopted the euro currency), which accounts for more than half of Swedish trade. They fear EMU would also force Sweden to harmonize its legislation, putting national business on an equal footing with its EU competitors.

Labor market regulations remain of particular concern for the government in the EMU debate. The current wage bargaining system sets the wages for a fixed period of 2 years. Consequently, a large part of the Swedish companies are bound by rigid wage costs over that period. In the event of an international economic slowdown and decreasing foreign sales, the export-driven Swedish industry would suffer from these high fixed wage costs. In similar situations in the past, its price competitiveness abroad has been restored by a depreciation of the krona. If Sweden joins EMU, however, such depreciation would be ruled out (all monetary issues will be decided upon by the European Central Bank), and a more flexible system of wage fixing would be needed to avoid massive layoffs in times of low foreign demand. But Sweden's traditional commitment to wage stability and solidarity and its opposition to layoffs form the heart of the country's economic model. EMU membership is supported by trade-union leadership, but less so by its rank-and-file members (typical workers).

The government's role in the Swedish economy is larger than in other industrialized countries such as the United States. The state owns shares in an array of important industries, such as commercial banks, credit institutions, telecommunications, information technology, broadcasting, postal services, nuclear and hydroelectric power production, air transport, railroads, mining companies, drug chains, pharmaceuticals, and the defense industry. It provides also extensive educational, health, oldage, disability, unemployment, and other social services. The Swedish government is planning a new program aimed at establishing more market discipline and improving the performance of state-owned firms by publishing their quarterly reports as a manifestation of accountability.

Sweden's corporate tax rate is 28 percent, levied on the company's worldwide income. Value-added tax (VAT) applies to the sale of goods and most services; its basic rate is 25 percent of the pre-tax price for all goods (12 percent on food items since 1996). Although corporate taxes are low by western European standards, individual ones, although progressive, are reckoned quite high and the IMF advocates lowering them if the country is to continue its steady growth.

Sweden has an external debt of US$66.5 billion (1994) which is considered proportionate, and is a major economic aid donor with US$1.7 billion in direct aid (1997). The country has a significant foreign trade surplus (more than US$17 billion in 1999) due to its large and robust export sector.


Sweden possesses a modern transportation network, regarded as a vital component of equitable wealth distribution. The country's railroads have 12,821 kilometers (7,967 miles) of track, about a third of them privately owned. A rapid railroad link connects Stockholm's main airport, Arlanda, with the city center, and there is a 16-kilometer (10-mile) long bridge and tunnel across the strait of Ôresund from Malmö in Sweden to Denmark's capital, Copenhagen, opened in 2000. There are 163,453 kilometers (101,570 miles) of paved highways, including 1,439 kilometers (894 miles) of expressways. Sweden has 2,052 kilometers (1,275 miles) of navigable waterways and 84 kilometers (52 miles) of natural-gas pipelines. Major ports and harbors, all equipped with modern terminals, including container handling, include Gaevle, Göteborg, Halmstad, Helsingborg, Hudiksvall, Kalmar, Karlshamn, Malmö, Solvesborg, Stockholm, and Sundsvall, The Swedish merchant fleet comprises 165 modern ships. The Swedish marine carrier Stena Bulk AB has recently partnered with, an independent online marketplace, for the sale of marine products and services, but mostly to help buyers and sellers complete fuel transactions.

Since the deregulation of the domestic air market in 1991, several Swedish airlines, such as the Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS), Malmö Aviation, and Transwede, have been competing for passengers and cargo. The largest player is SAS, collectively owned by Sweden, Denmark, and Norway. Sweden holds a three-sevenths stake in it, of which the government owns half. SAS is a champion of air-transport liberalization (the "open skies" policy) and has struck many strategic partnerships. In 1998, there were 14 million international departures from the Stockholm airports alone. In 2000, the Swedish government was in the process of privatizing several enterprises in its transportation sector. Norway's Schoyen Gruppen and U.S. investment bank Goldman, Sachs acquired

Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Sweden 445 932 531 221.4 464 50.9 361.4 581.47 3,666
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
Germany 311 948 580 214.5 170 73.1 304.7 173.96 14,400
Norway 588 915 579 160.1 474 50.0 373.4 754.15 2,000
aData are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
bData are from the Internet Software Consortium ( and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

the public transit company Swebus, including its bus operations in Finland, in 1999. Swebus serves about 30 percent of the market in Sweden with its 3,400 buses and 5,200 employees. In another similar privatization deal, the French company CGEA Transport bought 60 percent of the equity of the Stockholm subway system from the city of Stockholm.

Sweden's energy sector is strong, with energy production and usage per capita being among the highest in Europe. State-run Svenska Kraftnat runs the national electricity grid. The country is rich in water resources, and 46.5 percent of total power is generated by hydro-electricity; nuclear energy supplies 45.1 percent, and thermal plants provide the rest. In 1980, Swedes voted in a referendum to decommission its nuclear plants by 2010, but the law that was needed to enable the decision is still pending in the Riksdag. The parliamentary opposition has undertaken to reverse the law, alleging that there has been a change in public opinion. Sydkraft, a private company that owns a nuclear power plant, is threatening to contest its scheduled closure in the European Court of Justice. Deregulation of Sweden's electricity market began by 2000 with the intent of giving all households the freedom to choose among energy suppliers.

Sweden is among the world's leaders in information technology, computer hardware, software, and services. It has the highest number of phone lines (combined fixed and mobile) per capita, as well as the highest percentage of Internet users in the world. Some 74 percent of Swedish companies and 45 percent of households had Internet access in early 2000. In 2000, the phone infrastructure had 68 fixed lines per 100 inhabitants, and mobile phone penetration was approximately 48 percent. Sweden is also a leader in the implementation of new wireless phone and Internet technology. In 1993, the Swedish telecommunications market was one of the first in Europe to deregulate, and telecom investments in 2000 amounted to more than 6 percent of GDP. Virtually no restrictions protect domestic interests or restrict foreign operations from establishing themselves locally.

The Swedish government emphasizes electronic commerce, both in the consumer and business sectors, encourages state-owned companies to use electronic purchasing as a means for cost-cutting, and is committed to creating a national broadband network aimed at bringing high-speed Internet access to every household, even in the remotest parts of the country. Although the system will be open to all Internet providers, some municipalities have decided not to wait for the national system, expected to be completed in 2005, and have begun building their own networks. Much of the Swedish e-commerce revolution is also driven by the utilities. Faced with falling electricity prices in the deregulated market, they are trying to sell other services with higher profit margins to their existing customers and use their electricity grids more effectively.


As in much of western Europe, the Swedish economy after World War II has gradually become service-oriented, and by 1997, the service sector accounted for 67.3 percent of GDP. Manufacturing contributes 30.5 percent to GDP, and agriculture 2 percent. Private companies account for about 90 percent of manufacturing output, of which the engineering sector accounts for half of

both output and exports. Among the healthiest sectors of the Swedish economy are traditional export-oriented industries like automobiles and construction equipment, as well as services, information technology, and telecommunications.


Sweden is almost self-sufficient in many agricultural products, although the sector employs no more than 2 percent of the labor force and contributes 2 percent of GDP. About 7 percent of Sweden's land is cultivated, mostly in the southern plains. Modern farming, including fertilization and mechanization, make high yields possible although soils are generally poor and the cold climate renders the growing season much shorter than elsewhere in Europe. Farms vary in size from large to small ones, many of which combine into various larger units and cooperatives. Traditionally important sectors such as dairies have declined in the 1990s compared to grain and vegetable production, but livestock and animal products remain among the main commodity items. Other crops include wheat, barley, oats, rye, potatoes, and sugar beets. In 1997, livestock included 1.8 million cattle, 2.4 million pigs, 470,000 sheep, and 11.2 million poultry. The country also exports some fur pelts, notably mink.


Sweden's world-class domestic industries originated in the 17th century from its vast natural resources of forests, rich iron ore and waterpower. Over the course of the 20th century, Swedish industry has evolved from traditional sectors with lower added value, such as wood and iron ore processing, to modern industries with a higher degree of skill and technology input, such as automobiles and precision and specialized engineering. The change of priorities became even more evident in the 1990s, with the emergence of new research-intensive industries, such as information technology and pharmaceuticals, which replaced the more traditional engineering industries as the driving force of growth and business activity.

During this transition, some sectors, like textiles and iron, contracted considerably while others, such as shipbuilding, have all but disappeared, but Swedish restructuring has been smooth in terms of economic and social stability. By 2000, major industries included information technology (telephone, radio, and computer equipment), communications, pharmaceuticals, precision equipment (bearings and armaments), high-quality steel, automobiles, electrical motors and other electrical equipment, printed and published goods (including software and popular music), home and office furnishings, and processed foods. Most of the manufacturing plants are private and small, though Sweden also accounts for 29 of the 500 largest companies in Europe, perhaps the highest number per capita in the world). Several of the world's most sophisticated and diversified engineering companies bear Swedish names, although many of them are now foreign-owned or in multinational cooperation. They include, among others, Volvo, Saab, Scania, Electrolux, SKF, and ABB. The most dynamic sector by the late 1990s was telecommunications and information technology, with Ericsson being the most outstanding company in that field.

The automotive sector, one of the most important industries, has lived through major changes in the 1990s due to global restructuring and consolidation. General Motors acquired a 50 percent equity stake in Saab in 1989, and GM acquired the remaining stake in 1999. In 1999, Volvo sold its car division to the Ford Motor Company. Volvo shifted gears to concentrate on commercial transport equipment, and in 1999 acquired 75 percent of Scania, the second major Swedish truck maker. Volvo thus became one of the world's largest manufacturers of heavy vehicles. Sweden also is a major manufacturer of pharmaceuticals; its Pharmacia company merged in 1995 with the U.S. group Upjohn, while Astra merged in 1998 with British Zeneca, to form AstraZeneca.

During the 1990s, the information technology industry has been by far the fastest-growing sector in Sweden. In 1999, the country had more than 250 information technology companies (including foreign-owned ones) with an annual revenue of more than US$10 million, and a huge number of smaller ones. By far the largest of them was Ericsson, with net sales of US$26 billion in 1999. Telia was its second largest company, in net sales and employees. Many important international information technology companies, including Intel, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard and Nortel, have chosen Sweden as the base for their European operations or for advanced research and development.


As in most of the industrialized world, the Swedish economy is becoming increasingly service-based, with more than two-thirds of GDP formed in that sector, and the role of finance and banking dramatically increasing. Retail is a traditionally strong industry, and tourism is also gaining ground with the increasing affluence of the Swedes and the growing interest of foreign visitors in traveling in the country.


Financial institutions in Sweden, both banking and capital-market ones, are well developed and stable. In addition to Riksbanken, the central bank, there are 2 types of banks, joint stock (commercial) and savings banks. Several "member-banks," formed as economic associations, also operate, but generally all banks are entitled to activity in all areas of the industry. In 1986, Sweden opened its borders to 12 foreign commercial banks, allowing them to open branches offices in the country, and they have since focused on business services. In 1990, all restrictions concerning foreign ownership of Swedish bank stock were abolished, though the banks' activities are subject to close supervision to insure that all necessary standards are met. According to the law, financial statements are audited only by internationally recognized auditors. The largest banks in the mid-1990s were Nordbanken, Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken, Svenska Handelsbanken and Foreningssparbanken (Savings Bank Foundation). American institutions Citibank and GE Capital Bank were also in operation.

Many Swedish banks suffered losses in the early 1990s due to recession , the increased competition generated by deregulation of the sector, sharply expanded lending, especially for real estate (mortgages), plus high inflation in the second half of the 1980s. In 1992, the government guaranteed all commitments of banks and mortgage lenders to their depositors and investors, establishing a Bank Support Council to manage a bank assistance program. Following EU directives, the government guarantee was replaced in 1996 (after Sweden's accession to the EU) by a bank deposit guarantee.

Since the mid-1990s, following global consolidation trends, the number of banks in Sweden was reduced through mergers. The largest merger was the 1998 deal between Nordbanken and Finland's Merita that formed the huge MeritaNordbanken Group. The deregulation of financial markets encouraged many foreign banks to enter Sweden. Credit Lyonnais of France was one of the leaders, although competition in Swedish retail banking forced it to sell its operation to the Trygg-Hansa insurance group in 1997. There were 32 commercial banks doing business in 1999, 15 of which were foreign subsidiaries. Smaller "niche banks" have also emerged (like "dial-in" banks for services by telephone), and all major banks are offering virtual services through the Internet. In 1999, 3 out of the top 4 Internet banks were Swedish. All major banks offer online services, and almost 40 percent of the Swedes conducted their financial transactions at least partly online in 2000, making the country, along with its Nordic neighbors, a leader in Internet banking. Swedbank's Internet system was named the best in Europe in 1999 and proved so convenient that Swedbank was also able to sell it to Norway's Sparbank 1.

Four of Sweden's major commercial banks plan to start a joint system for electronic stock trading in the hope of taking some customers away from the well-established OM Stockholm Stock Exchange by offering trading services on weekends, and eventually, around the clock.

Long considered underdeveloped, the Swedish venture-capital sector finally began to grow dramatically in late 1998 and 1999 thanks to the Internet and high-tech stock boom. It was badly hit by the meltdown in information-technology stocks in late 2000. Probably one-fifth of the 140 venture capital firms existing in late 2000 will either merge, close down, or leave the country. The remaining venture-capital firms will shift resources, possibly meaning that less capital will be available for new startups and expansions in 2001-2002.


The Swedish retail sector has been traditionally strong. It is following European retail trends, with large stores and shopping malls replacing the small traditional retailers, although to a lesser extent than in Continental Europe, given the smaller size of the market. New forms of retailing have benefited vastly from improvements in consumer confidence, a rise in earnings, and an expansion of employment. Furthermore, the reduction in value-added tax (VAT) on food since 1995, and Sweden's entry into the EU the same year, led to a fall in many prices. In 1998 and 1999, consumer demand for cars and audiovisual and computer equipment boosted the volume of retail trade to nearly 6 percent higher than in the previous year. By far the best known name worldwide in Swedish retail is IKEA, the furnishing retailer that registers 53 percent of its sales and 26 percent of its purchasing in the euro zone. IKEA also has a very strong presence in the U.S. Another strong retailer is Apoteksbolaget, a state-owned chain of pharmacies with a monopoly on the sale of all prescription and non-prescription medication.

E-commerce is already widely established, and online revenue as a share of total retail revenue is the second highest in the world after the United States. A growing number of Sweden's online retailers, including Boxman, Europe's largest online CD music and video retailer, have expanded even beyond the domestic market and built up a presence in other countries in Europe. Direct marketing is also expanding, and well-established mail-order firms have emerged in the areas of beauty products (such as Oriflame), clothing, sporting goods and hardware. Telemarketing is still relatively rare, but the use of cable TV sales channels is increasing.

For decades, Sweden has had a tradition of government policy aimed at restricting alcohol consumption through a state liquor monopoly and high taxes at more than twice the British and more than 10 times the French and German rates. When Sweden joined the EU in 1995, the state import monopoly was discarded, but the distribution and retail market remained under government control and the Swedish government negotiated a temporary exemption from the EU regulations, restricting the amount of alcohol individuals can import into the country. The European Commission has objected to future extension of this exemption, and Swedes take advantage of short trips to Denmark and Germany to import large quantities of alcohol for domestic consumption, especially after the bridge and tunnel link to Denmark opened in 2000.


Tourism is not a traditionally important sector in Sweden, but it has been growing throughout the 1980s and 1990s, with most foreign visitors coming from Germany, Britain, and the United States. The tourist season has traditionally been confined to the summer months, but winter skiing holidays began to attract foreign visitors during the 1990s. The first direct charter flight between Swedish ski resorts and Britain was launched in 1997. Still, about 80 percent of the guests were Swedes and about 6 percent were other Nordic nationals. Most Swedes continue to prefer traveling abroad during the obligatory 5 weeks of vacation and the increasing number of special holidays. The Norwegian hotel chain Norlandia plans to build up to 5 new hotel and conference centers in Sweden to add to the 6 it now has in the country.


Sweden has had a traditionally strong export sector and has recorded large surpluses on its trade since the mid-1990s (more than US$7 billion in 1999). The trade surplus is likely to increase in 2001, driven by an expected fall in oil prices. Principal exported commodities include machinery and equipment (35 percent), motor vehicles, paper products, pulp and wood, iron and steel products, and chemicals. Leading export markets in 1998 were the European Union (57 percent), Germany (11 percent), the United Kingdom, Norway, and the United States (9 percent each), Denmark (6 percent), and Finland (5 percent). Imported commodities include machinery, petroleum and petroleum products, chemicals, motor vehicles, iron and steel, foodstuffs, and clothing. Chief import partners in 1998 were the European Union (68 percent), Germany (19 percent), the United Kingdom (10 percent), Norway (10 percent), and Denmark, France, and the United States (6 percent each). Swedish export brands such as Ericsson, Volvo, Saab, Electrolux, IKEA, and Oriflame, are among the best known in the world.

In 2000, the increase in the imports of mineral fuels, lubricants and related products amounted to SKr18.7 billion, but this was easily offset by the growth in the value of Swedish exports. Electrical machinery was one of the rapidly growing export categories, and revenue increased also in wood pulp, iron and steel, while in manufacturing they remained flat. In 2000, the U.S. economy alone absorbed SKr47.7 billion of Swedish exports, or an increase of 20.6 percent, and Swedish deliveries to Japan also rose sharply. The price of Swedish imports remained relatively stable, although high oil prices produced a

Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Sweden
exports Imports
1975 17.383 17.450
1980 30.906 33.438
1985 30.461 28.547
1990 57.540 54.264
1995 79.801 64.645
1998 84.730 68.413
SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.

sharp increase in the value of Norwegian imports (Norway is the major exporter of oil and natural gas for many countries in the region).


In 2000, the exchange rate for Swedish kronor stood at SKr8.4831 to US$1; it stood at SKr7.1333 in 1995 and SKr6.7060 in 1996. In the late 1990s, the Swedish government's budget balance improved dramatically. After a deficit of more than 12 percent of GDP in 1993, there was a surplus by 1998, and large surpluses are expected every year through 2002. Credibility improved with the introduction of new strict budget regulations with spending ceilings, and the establishment of a truly independent central bank, the Riksbanken. The government still has a high consolidated debt, although it declined from a peak of 79 percent of GDP in 1994 to 67.6 percent in 1999 and 62.2 percent in 2000. The Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority has established a close monitoring of household borrowing, fearing that rapid expansion in lending could lead to credit losses. Riksbanken is expected to be successful in meeting its EU-mandated 2 percent annual inflation target in the longer term. The government and the Social Democratic party remain split over whether Sweden should join the European Monetary Union, concerned that Swedish exports could be hurt, although local businesses are eager to join EMU. Many believe it will take another 2 to 3 years for Sweden to adopt the euro even if a decision to join EMU is made.

The respected though insignificant Stockholm Stock Exchange (SSE), formed in 1863, became the world's first for-profit exchange in 1992. In 1995, it merged with the OM Derivative Exchange (formed in 1985 to offer options trading) to form the new OM Stockholm Exchange; it maintains an investment exchange in London. The OM Stockholm Exchange has been one of the most successful in western Europe in the 1990s, and it ended 1999 with its SX General Index at a record high of 5,382, or 66.4 percent higher than in 1998. The dramatic rise in the share index and in the market capitalization were

Exchange rates: Sweden
Swedish kronor (SKr) per US$1
Jan 2001 9.4669
2000 9.1622
1999 8.2624
1998 7.9499
1997 7.6349
1996 6.7060
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].

mainly due to the high-tech boom of the late 1990s, and the turnover in Ericsson's and Nokia's shares contributed to almost half of the total figure. Since 1999, the OM Stockholm and the Copenhagen stock exchanges have been part of the Norex alliance, in which all shares listed on both exchanges are traded on a joint electronic system. In late 1999, the Oslo stock exchange also joined Norex, and the stock exchanges of the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania) and Iceland have expressed interest in joining. The joint stock exchanges, along with several newly-opened Swedish online brokerages, help broaden the pool of capital available to businesses and make raising capital easier and cheaper while the economy becomes more dynamic, effective, and flexible.

As the OM was facing volatile stock prices and the Internet meltdown was plaguing world markets in late 2000, a number of Swedish companies, mostly from the information technology sector, started fundraising by targeting new share offerings directly to interested institutions, mostly to save time and money, but also to avoid the risk that their public offerings might not be successful, given the growing skepticism about information-technology stocks. Another advantage of direct offering was that it helped companies avoid the large price fluctuations of a new public offering and the administrative costs associated with it.

By 2000, the Swedish government was also considering a legal amendment aimed at making it easier for banks and other financial institutions to securitize (re-place non-marketable bank loans with negotiable securities) some of their own assets. These would include mortgages, to be securitized by selling them to security brokerage firms who would issue them securities (bonds) against the loans, that, in turn, may be used as investment capital. Securitization is essentially a method of freeing up capital from long-term loans.


Sweden is well-known for its system that combines a strong market-based economy with extensive socialwelfare

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Sweden 21,157 22,283 24,168 26,397 27,705
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
Germany N/A N/A N/A N/A 31,141
Norway 19,022 23,595 27,113 28,840 36,806
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.

services. Central and local authorities play a dominant role in providing a wide variety of social services, such as education, health, old age, disability, and unemployment benefits. The governing Social Democratic Party has a platform that includes full employment , wage solidarity, and the maintenance of current living standards among its basic goals.

Swedes enjoy a traditionally high and stable standard of living, although at a high cost to individual taxpayers. Sweden is among the most equitable societies in the world, with a 1995 Gini index (an index that measuring economic equality in which 0 stands for perfect equality and 100 for perfect inequality) of 25. By comparison, the United States had a Gini rating of 40.8, the United Kingdom had a 36.1, and Switzerland had a 33.1). This means that there are no extremes of wealth and poverty in the country. Progressive personal income taxes and comparatively lower executive compensation (compared to that in the U.S.) contribute to maintaining equal social opportunity. Sweden's excellent distribution and transportation system, along with generous regional subsidies, work to prevent inequalities in living standards between urban and rural areas.

Social security programs are exceptionally comprehensive and are subsidized by the government, although some are administered by the trade unions. In response

Distribution of Income or Consumption by Percentage Share: Sweden
Lowest 10% 3.7
Lowest 20% 9.6
Second 20% 14.5
Third 20% 18.1
Fourth 20% 23.2
Highest 20% 34.5
Highest 10% 20.1
Survey year: 1992
Note: This information refers to income shares by percentiles of the population and is ranked by per capita income.
SOURCE: 2000 World Development Indicators [CD-ROM].
Household Consumption in PPP Terms
Country All Food Clothing and footwear Fuel and power a Health care b Education b Transport & Communications Other
Sweden 17 5 12 4 14 6 41
United States 13 9 9 4 6 8 51
Germany 14 6 7 2 10 7 53
Norway 16 7 11 5 4 6 51
Data represent percentage of consumption in PPP terms.
aExcludes energy used for transport.
bIncludes government and private expenditures.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

to the recession of the early 1990s, the government started reductions in the level and range of social programs. Still, some surveys have found that 62 percent of all young and educated Swedes have considered moving abroad, partly in pursuit of greater personal challenge.


Working conditions in Sweden are among the best in the world, thanks to sophisticated environmental and worker-safety regulations. Its labor force of some 4.3 million is disciplined, educated, and experienced in most modern technologies. About 87 percent of Swedish workers belong to a labor union, arguably the world's highest rate, and unions are active partners with businesses in implementing more efficient programs. Swedish legislation provides for labor representation on the boards of directors of large corporations and requires management to negotiate with the unions prior to implementing major changes. Management-labor cooperation is traditionally non-confrontational. There is no fixed minimum wage, and all wages are set by collective bargaining. Since 1991, real wage increases have exceeded those of most EU countries. As the EMU debate gains momentum, labor unions are calling for buffer funds, similar to those created in Finland, as a "cushion" for pension savings and other worker benefits during the transition period to the euro, in the event that there are any large currency fluctuations.

Many pro-business observers, including those from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), have recommended some fundamental labor market reforms, including wage differentiation (to reduce labor costs for low-skilled jobs), introducing an incentive to increase individual competence, strict eligibility requirements and limitations on unemployment benefits, the reduction of income taxes and non-wage labor costs, making the unions and their members bear the costs of the unemployment insurance system, and liberalizing employment protection legislation. Such measures are believed to increase efficiency and competitiveness, but labor representatives complain that they would place more burdens on workers.

Sweden's primary labor-related problem remains its level of unemployment. During a very short period in the early 1990s, the unemployment rate rose from levels among the lowest in the industrialized world to the average EU levels, where it remained until the business cycle improved in 1998-99. By 2000, the unemployment rate was less than 5 percent, but was 8.7 percent for those employees involved in training programs. Sweden's government plans to reduce the unemployment rate to 4 percent and to assure that 80 percent of the working-age population have a full-time job by 2004.


700s. The present-day territory of Sweden is inhabited by Suiones and Gothones, Germanic tribes at war with each other.

800. Swedish Vikings start exploring the seas, establishing colonies in western Russia and eastern Europe and developing commercial ties with Byzantium, the Khazar Khaganate, and the Arab Caliphate.

9TH CENTURY. Frankish Christian missionaries penetrate Sweden, which is slowly Christianized.

1150-1160. Under king Erik IX, Sweden invades Finland and forces Christianity on the conquered Finns. A feudal economy based on agriculture and trade develops.

1397. The Union of Kalmar unites the 3 Scandinavian kingdoms of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden under a single (Danish) monarch but constant wars follow between the Danes and Swedes.

1521. A rebellion of Swedes led by Gustav Vasa, later king Gustav I Vasa, overthrows Danish influence in most of Sweden, which becomes a hereditary monarchy that establishes Lutheranism as the state religion.

MID-1500s. Sweden enters a century-long period of military expansion, waging wars against Poland and Russia, and acquiring many territories around the Baltic, including Estonia, Karelia, Ingria, and Livonia.

1630. King Gustav II Adolph (Gustavus Adolphus II), considered the greatest Swedish king and a champion of Protestantism, leads Sweden in the Thirty Years' War.

1648. By the Peace of Westphalia ending the Thirty Years' War, Sweden acquires a large part of Pomerania, the island of Ruegen, Wismar, the sees (bishoprics) of Bremen and Verden, and other German lands. Sweden participates in German affairs and makes an alliance with France but is defeated by the Prussians in 1675.

1700-1721. In the Great Northern War, king Charles XII invades northwestern Russia and defeats the Poles, but the Swedes are finally routed and replaced by Russia as the dominant power in the region. Sweden loses much of its German territory and cedes Livonia, Estonia, Ingria, part of Karelia, and several important Baltic islands to Russia.

1718. A new constitution is adopted, rejecting absolute monarchy and vesting the legislative power in a parliament (Riksdag) composed of 4 estates (nobles, clergy, burghers, and peasants). The executive power becomes the domain of a "secret committee" of the first 3 estates.

1805. King Gustav IV Adolph joins the European coalition of Britain, Russia, and Austria against France, but Russia later unites with France's Napoleon and attacks Sweden, which is forced to cede Finland and the Aland Islands.

1810. To appease Napoleon, the Riksdag chooses Marshal Jean Bernadotte, one of Napoleon's generals, as crown prince, heir to Sweden's childless king. Bernadotte fights against Napoleon in 1813-14 and Denmark is forced to yield Norway to Sweden in exchange for the Swedish lands in Pomerania. In 1815, the union of Norway with Sweden is recognized by the European powers.

1818. Bernadotte succeeds to the throne as Charles XIV John, and Sweden makes considerable progress materially, politically, and culturally under his reign. An early capitalist economy develops.

1867-86. Nearly 500,000 Swedes emigrate to America because of rising unemployment.

1905. Norway secedes from Sweden, without opposition from the Riksdag.

EARLY 1900s. Sweden adopts much progressive social legislation, notably in factory laws, accident insurance, and pension funds for workers, and limitation of working hours for women and children. Major developments in industry turn Sweden into a technologically advanced economy.

1914. Sweden declares neutrality in World War I and joins an agreement to protect the common economic interests of the 3 Scandinavian countries.

1920. Sweden joins the League of Nations.

1920s-1930s. The Social Democratic Party becomes the leading force in Swedish politics. Socialist governments in the 1920s and 1930s enact significant social reforms.

1945. Having been neutral throughout World War II, Sweden joins the United Nations and maintains its neutral stance during the Cold War, refusing to join NATO in 1949 but trying to upgrade its armed forces adequately.

1950s-1970s. Postwar Social Democratic governments vastly expand the welfare state while developing a strong export-oriented market economy based on engineering and research.

1972. Swedish opposition to the Vietnam war voiced by popular Social Democratic prime minister Olof Palme arouses indignation in the U.S. as many young American war resisters are given political asylum in Sweden.

1991. Social Democrats decline in authority, although they remain the largest parliamentary party. Carl Bildt of the Moderate Party forms a coalition cabinet with the Center, Liberal, and Christian Democratic parties, stressing deregulation of the economy, privatization of state companies, cuts in government spending, including welfare, and removing restrictions on foreign companies in Sweden.

1994. Social Democrats return to power.

1995. Sweden enters the European Union as a full member.


Sweden is expected to preserve its healthy economy and high living standards into the foreseeable future, although the EMU membership controversy will continue to considerably influence domestic politics. In January 2001, Sweden took over the 6-month rotating EU presidency, but opinion polls showed that only half of the electorate wanted the country to remain in the European Union. Economic growth is likely to slow from 4 percent in 2000 to 3.5 percent in 2001 and 3.2 percent in 2002; inflation is projected to remain moderate and under control, while the unemployment rate will likely continue to fall. The Swedish trade surplus is likely to increase in 2001 due to the expected decline in oil prices and continued growth in exports. A decrease in the U.S. consumer spending may reduce Swedish exports to that major market in 2001, but exports to the EU will continue to grow steadily.

In the longer run, the restructuring of the Swedish economy will give further priority to information technology and other high-tech industries and, increasingly, financial services at the expense of traditional engineering industries. The living standards of the Swedes will continue to rise, although more slowly than in the late 1990s, and the government will put major efforts in planning for its eventual entry into the EMU in order to avoid negative effects on employment and welfare. Sweden will also continue to provide an important economic and social model, especially for the new EU members.


Sweden has no territories or colonies.


Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: Sweden. <>. Accessed January 2001.

Pontusson, Jonas. The Limits of Social Democracy: Investment Politics in Sweden. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1992.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook, 2000. <>. Accessed May 2001.

U.S. Department of State. FY 2000 Country Commercial Guide: Sweden. <>. Accessed May 2001.

Valentin Hadjiyski




Swedish krona (SKr, plural is kronor). One krona is comprised of 100 öre. There are coins of 50 öre and 1, 5, and 10 kronor, and notes of 20, 50, 100, 500, 1,000, and 10,000 kronor.


Machinery, motor vehicles, electronics, paper products, pulp and wood, iron and steel products, and chemicals.


Machinery, petroleum and petroleum products, chemicals, motor vehicles, iron and steel, foodstuffs, and clothing.


US$184 billion (1999 est.).


Exports: US$85.7 billion (1999). Imports: US$67.9 billion (1999).

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POPULATION: 8.8 million

LANGUAGE: Swedish; Sami; Finnish

RELIGION: Church of Sweden (Lutheran)


Swedes live in Sweden, one of the countries that make up the region known as Scandanavia. (The other Scandinavian nations are Denmark, Finland, Iceland, and Norway.) The first written reference to the Swedes is by the Roman historian Tacitus, who called the Swedes "mighty in ships and arms" in ad 98. Sweden represented a major European power during the seventeenth century, with its territories including Finland (10001805), parts of Germany, and the Baltic States. Christianity was introduced during the ninth through the eleventh centuries. An age of territorial expansion during the 1500s and 1600s ended in defeat by Russia in 1709 and the loss of most overseas possessions by the early nineteenth century. Norway was united with Sweden from 1814 to 1905.

In the twentieth century Sweden remained neutral in both world wars, serving as a haven (safe place) for refugees in World War II (193945). Carl XVI Gustaf has been king since 1973, though his duties and influence are limited to ceremonies.


Sweden is the largest country in Scandinavia and the fourth-largest in Europe. With a total area of 173,732 square miles (449,966 square kilometers), it is close in size to the state of California. It is one of the more sparsely populated countries, with only 55 people per square mile (21 people per square kilometer). It is bordered by Norway on the north and west, Denmark on the southeast, and the Gulf of Bothnia, the Baltic Sea, and Finland on the east. One-seventh of Sweden lies within the Arctic Circle, the "land of the midnight sun," where the sun never really sets for three months during the summer. The country has about 100,000 lakes and many rivers, and more than half its terrain is forested. Most of its 8.8 million people live in the south of the country.

The Swedes are a Scandinavian people descended from Germanic tribes who emigrated to the region in ancient times, displacing the indigenous Sami. Ethnic minorities include about 30,000 Swedish-speaking Finns living in the northeastern section of the country, and approximately 15,000 Sami, a traditionally nomadic group of reindeer herders who live in northern portions of Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia. Since World War II (193945), Sweden has also accepted immigrant workers from Greece, Germany, Turkey, Great Britain, Poland, Italy, and the former Yugoslavia, as well as political refugees, mostly from the Middle East, Asia, and the Latin American countries of Chile and Argentina.


Swedish is a Germanic language closely related to Norwegian and Danish. There are also similarities between Swedish and English, and most Swedes speak English as a second language. The Sami have their own language, and there are also some Finnish speakers in the country.

English Swedish Pronunciation
hello hej HAY
goodbye adjö ah-YER
yes/no ja/nej YA/NAY
please varsagod var-shah-GUD
thank you tack TAHK
breakfast rrukost FROO-kohst
lunch lunch LOONSH
dinner middag MID-dahg
one ett AYN
two två TVAW
three tre TRAY
four fyra FEE-ra
five fem FEM
six sex SE
seven sju SHOO
eight atta AWT-tah
nine nio NEE-ah
ten tio TEE-eh

Popular boys' names that are distinctly Swedish are Anders, Bengt, Hans, Gunnar, Ake, and Lars, while girls are commonly named Margareta, Karin, Birgitta, Kerstin, and Ingrid.


Rural dwellers have traditionally believed in the existence of a variety of supernatural beings. Every province of Sweden has its own customs and local lore. For example, there is a legend about the difference between the lush, fertile land of Skåne in the south and the neighboring northern province of Småland, which is rocky and barren. While God was making Skåne so beautiful, the Devil supposedly sneaked past God and turned Småland into a harsh and desolate place. It was too late for God to change the land, but God was able to create its people and made them tough and resourceful enough to survive in their difficult environment.

Swedish folklore is also full of moral tales. One of the more popular, reflecting Sweden's deep egalitarianism, is called "Master Pär and Rag Jan's Boy."

Master Pär was a terribly rich landowner and Rag Jan was a dirt-poor farmer. Master Pär, however, was deeply dissatisfied because his wife had never been able to have children, so there was no one to inherit his wealth. Rag Jan, on the other hand, had several children and Master Pär envied the poor farmer terribly.

One night a strange traveler came to town and went to Master Pär's house asking if she could stay the night. Master Pär laughed and slammed the door in her face. Next she went to Rag Jan's, who, even though his wife had just given birth to another son, told her she was more than welcome. The strange traveler, who was something of a mystic, told Jan that in the morning he should go to Master Pär and ask him to be the godfather of his new son. Jan did so even though he knew Master Pär would sneer at the idea, which he did. "Never mind," said the strange woman, "your new son will one day be heir to Master Pär's fortune: I have seen it in a vision." The only thing Jan had to do was to keep quiet about her plan.

Time passed and Master Pär continued to despair over not having an heir. Being rich, he thought that the solution would be to buy a child, so he went to Jan, remembering that strange day when Jan had suggested that he be the godfather to his new boy. He bought the boy and raised him for a year, but then his wife got pregnant and bore him a daughter. The boy and girl became inseparable friends, falling deeply in love. Then one day Rag Jan's wife forgot the strange woman's pleading to keep quiet and told a friend that it had been predicted that her son would one day inherit Master Pär's wealth. Well, Master Pär heard of this and had the boy sent off to the woods, to his sister's, to be killed. Years went by, and, through the help of the strange woman, the boy was not killed but raised by Master Pär's sister into a strong young man. When Master Pär found out, he again hatched a plot to have the boy killed, but, again through the workings of the strange woman, the boy was not only spared but became engaged to Master Pär's daughter. When Master Pär found out, he went into a rage and told the boy that the only way he could marry his daughter would be to travel to the end of the world and ask the giant that lived there why everything always went wrong for Master Pär.

The boy agreed to take the journey. Master Pär was happy because he knew (but the boy didn't) that the giant at the end of the world loved to eat Christians. As the boy journeyed to the end of the world, he passed three castles and met three kings, each of whom asked where he was going. "To the end of the world," the boy replied, "to ask the giant why everything always goes wrong for Master Pär." Each of the kings then asked him if he could ask the giant a question for him. The first wanted to know why the apples on one side of his apple tree grew red and on the other grew white; the second wanted to know why his spring had gone muddy; the third asked him to find out what had happened to his daughter. The boy happily told them all he would do the best he could.

When he got to the end of the world, he came to a river with a ferry operated by an ancient woman. The woman asked the young boy where he was going. When he told her, she too asked him to ask the giant a question. She wanted to know how long she would have to stay at the river. She had already been there for a hundred years.

Across the river, the young boy came to a mountain with a door leading into its heart. He went inside and came across a beautiful woman spinning golden thread. The woman asked the boy what he was doing there and when he told her, the woman told him that his journey was doomed: the giant would simply eat him up the minute he saw him. Then the woman had an idea and told the boy to hide. That night, when the giant fell asleep, the woman pretended to wake from a terrible dream, screaming. This woke the giant and he asked what was wrong. She told him that in her dream someone named Master Pär had asked her why things always went wrong for him. The giant, half asleep, said it was because he refused to accept the son-in-law the gods had chosen for him. The woman then pretended to wake from three more dreams, each time asking the giant to solve one of the riddles. Then she pretended to awake one more time, this time asking how the ancient woman who operated the ferry could be relieved of her duty. The giant answered all the questions, and then the young boy jumped up from his hiding place and chopped off the giant's head.

When the boy and the woman got to the ferry, they told the ancient woman that they had found the answer to her question, but they would not tell her until they got across the river. When they landed, they told her that the next person who needed to get across could be forced to take her place if she said, "Now you must stay here as long as I have," while that person was in the ferry. The old woman shouted as the two ran off together that they should have told her that before getting out of the boat. All the kings were so grateful for the answers to their questions that they showered the young man with gifts, dressing him in the finest clothes and giving him the finest horse on which to ride the long journey home.

When he finally got to Master Pär's castle, Master Pär was quite surprised to see him alive and reluctantly agreed to allow the marriage. He was never happy, however, and became especially dissatisfied when his new son-in-law told him that he had left the giant's vast treasure of gold and jewelry behind after killing him. The treasure was still sitting there in the giant's mountain home. After a few years, the greed of Master Pär finally got the better of him, and he traveled to the end of the world to get the giant's treasure for himself. When he got to the ferry, the old woman told him to get in the boat and then said, "Now you must stay here as long as I have," and ran off cackling, leaving Master Pär to stare at the giant's unretrieved treasure, glistening in the mountain cave. He is sitting there still.


Sweden's state religion is Lutheranism, and about 90 percent of the population belongs to the Church of Sweden, the country's Lutheran church. In the past, all Swedes automatically became members of the church at birth but had the right to withdraw from it. As of January 1996, church membership is only achieved through baptism, as Sweden is currently negotiating a separation of church and state to be enacted by 2000. Although most people mark major life-cycle events such as baptism, confirmation, marriage, and death within the church, the majority do not attend services regularly. Of the 90-percent Lutheran population, only 10 percent attend church. Minority religions include Roman Catholicism, the Pentecostal Church, the Mission Covenant Church of Sweden, and the Greek Orthodox Church. In addition, there is a large concentration of Jews in Sweden, as well as a tremendous growth in the Islamic population.


Sweden's legal holidays are New Year's Day (January 1), Epiphany (January 6), Good Friday and Easter Monday (both in March or April), May Day (May 1), Ascension Day (May 31), Midsummer (June 23), All Souls' Day (November 3), and Christmas (December 25). At midnight on New Year's Eve (December 31), ship horns and factory sirens usher in the New Year and, following a century-old tradition, Alfred Tennyson's poem, "Ring Out, Wild Bells," is read at an open-air museum in Stockholm and broadcast throughout the country. The feast of St. Knut on January 13 is the time when Christmas decorations are taken down. Shrove Tuesday, the last day before Lent begins, is traditionally observed by eating a bun filled with cream and marzipan. As Easter approaches, Swedes decorate twigs with colored feathers and place them in water to sprout new leaves in time for the holiday. Similar to Halloween rituals observed in the United States, young boys and girls dress up as the Easter Hag and visit their neighbors, from whom they receive small gifts.

Among the most important secular holidays is the Feast of Valborg, or Walpurgis Night, observed on April 30, which celebrates the coming of spring with bonfires and other festivities performed both publicly and privately. The Swedish flag is honored on June 6, a day on which all cities and towns fly flags and hold ceremonies in the flag's honor. Finally, the Summer Solstice is observed on June 21 and June 22 through the raising of the Maypole, around which celebrants dance, sing traditional songs, and eat.


Modern Swedish children can expect to spend a lot of time in well-kept day care centers. Most parents, whether married or not, both work outside the home, requiring children to spend their early years in day care. Once in school, the children can look forward to spending their after-school hours in an expanded day care. Swedish children also have legal protections unheard of in other countries. There is a government office specifically designed to serve children's interests, and it is against the law for parents to hit their children.


The Swedish character is influenced by the harsh weather. During warm months, Swedes love to spend time outdoors, picnicking with friends in the country, or having a meal at a sidewalk cafe in the city. In the winter, most socializing comes to an end as Swedes generally retreat to their homes, waiting out the long, dark winter. Swedes tend to be reserved in public and in interpersonal relations. They do not usually touch others when communicating, as it is considered poor manners.


Except for brick-and-clay farm houses in southern Sweden, most dwellings were traditionally built of wood. In the past, the style of rural dwellings varied by region. Contemporary housing is basically similar throughout the country, and it features building materials and styles similar to those in the United States. Many empty country houses are now used as summer homes. Fewer than 50 percent of Swedes live in detached single homes, and about one-third live in or near the country's three largest cities.

Sweden's extensive system of social insurance pays for medical and dental care. The nation's infant mortality rate6 deaths for every 1,000 live birthsis one of the lowest in the world. Maternity leave with pay is granted one month before the expected birth of a child, with twelve additional months after the child is born, which can be taken by either parent or split between them. This legitimate leave of absence is termed "parental leave," as it can be chosen by either mother or father. However, 90 percent of parental leave is taken only by the mother, as 50 percent of Swedish fathers do not take even a single day off. The average life expectancy in Sweden is seventy-seven years for men and eighty-one years for women.


Most Swedish families have only one or two children. During the past twenty years, it has become so common for unmarried couples to live together that the people have coined a name for this arrangement: sambo (sam means together; bo means live). In 1988 the legal rights of persons involved in such relationships were expanded, making them almost the legal equal of married spouses. Nevertheless, sambo relationships often lead to marriage. Sweden's divorce rate has doubled since 1960. The older Swedish generation views the husband's role as that of the breadwinner, and still relegates the wife to domestic tasks within the home. However, as in the United States, the younger Swedish generation considers marriage more as a partnership with shared responsibilities, since both spouses work. Swedish women are guaranteed equal rights under the law, and 82 percent work outside the homethe highest rate in Europe. Many women hold upper-level government positions, including positions in parliament and the governing cabinet. Almost half of all working women have children under the age of sixteen.

The elderly Swede enjoys generous social benefits from the state and, usually, does not live with a younger relative, as used to be the norm. As in most industrialized countries, the extended family has become less central to life in Sweden as children move in pursuit of careers, independence, and wealth. More than 90 percent of Swedes over sixty-five live independently outside of retirement homes, with medical care brought to them if they are unable to get around easily.


Modern, Western-style clothing is worn in Sweden. As in the United States, the Swedes' casual wear is typically slacks, shorts, and T-shirts. Likewise, suits are worn by both men and women in most places of business, and tuxedos and evening gowns are worn at formal affairs

Swedish folk costumes, which were introduced as late as the 1890s as a means of glorifying the cultural richness of the nation, are worn for special festivals such as Midsummer's Eve. They consist of white blouses, vests, and long dark skirts (often worn with aprons) for women, and white shirts, vests, dark knee-length breeches, and white hose for men. Only a small segment of the population even owns such a costume, and the costumes vary dramatically from region to region.


The Swedes, heavily influenced by the French, use rich sauces in their food. The Swedish name for the open-faced sandwich meal enjoyed throughout Scandinaviasmörgåsbord (SMUR-gawss-boord) is the one by which this buffet meal is known in the United States. In Sweden it commonly includes herring, smoked eel, roast beef, tongue, jellied fish, boiled potatoes, and cheese. Favorite hot dishes include meat-balls (köttbulla; CHURT-boolar ) served with lingonberry jam (lingonsylt; LING-onn-seelt ), fried meat, potatoes, and eggs; and Janssons frestelse (YAHN-sons FREH-stehl-seh), a layered potato dish with onions and cream, topped with anchovies. The Swedes love fish, especially salmon, which is typically smoked, marinated, or cured with dill and salt. Fresh fruits and vegetables, including all kinds of berries, are also very popular. Favorite beverages include milk, lättöl (LETT-url; a type of beer with almost no alcohol), and strong coffee.


Rose Hip Soup


  • 1½ to 2 cups dried rose hips (available at health food stores)
  • 1½ quarts water
  • ¼½ cup sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon potato starch (cornstarch may be substituted)


  1. Rinse the rose hips and lightly crush them. Put them in a saucepan with the water. Heat to boiling.
  2. Simmer until rose hips are tender.
  3. Transfer to a blender or food processor and purée. There should be about 1¼ quarts of liquid; if there is less, add water.
  4. Pour puréed rose hips back into the saucepan and add the sugar. Stir and cook over medium heat.
  5. Dissolve the potato starch in a small amount of cold water. Stir into soup slowly. Remove from heat just when is begins to boil. Chill before serving.
  6. Serve cold with ice cream or whipped cream. Top with slivered almonds or corn flakes.

Ceremonial foods include salt salmon on Good Friday, and roasted lamb on Easter Eve. At Christmas, an almond is placed in the rice pudding. Before serving themselves, each person has to make up a short rhyme. The one who gets the portion with the almond will marry within the year.

Sweden's best known contributions to world cuisine are Swedish meatballs and, of course, the smörgåsbord. Less well known is rose hip soup, a sweet, cold soup high in vitamin C, traditionally served during the long winter months when fruits are scarce. It is usually served cold with whipped cream or ice cream and topped with almond slivers or crushed corn flakes.


Almost all Swedes can read and write. School is required between the ages of seven and seventeen. During the first nine years, students attend a "comprehensive school" where they study a variety of subjects. Grades one through three are called the "junior" grades, four through six the "middle" grades, and seven through nine the "senior" grades. There is a three-week Christmas vacation, and a summer vacation that extends from early June to late August. Free hot lunches are provided to all students. English is taught as a second language from the third grade on, and crafts such as woodworking and textile-making are also part of the curriculum. While immigrant children from countries such as Germany and Turkey receive education in their own language a few hours each day, there are also special English classes for these students.

Beginning in the seventh year, instruction varies based on students' interests and abilities. About 30 percent choose the college-preparatory curriculum, while others opt for more vocationally-oriented training. Swedes maintain the Scandinavian tradition of giving ceremonial white hats to secondary school graduates. Sweden has six universities, located in Stockholm, Linköping, Uppsala, Lund, and Umeå.


Swedes take an intense interest in their cultural heritage, devoting a large part of their public funds to institutions such as museums, libraries, theaters, and galleries. The arts receive strong support from the government in Sweden. An example of the intense Swedish interest in art is the fact that Stockholm's subway system is filled with public art and has been called the world's longest art gallery.

Performers in Sweden enjoy a level of job security unknown in most other countries, including the United States. They are hired by the year, drawing a regular salary and receiving pension, insurance, and vacation benefits. However, even the most successful Swedish performers do not receive the extremely high levels of pay accorded to "superstars" in some other countries, particularly the United States.

Sweden's best-known writer was August Strindberg, who wrote novels, short stories, essays, and plays that influenced the course of modern drama. Selma Lagerlof, the first Swede to win the Nobel Prize, is known for both her novels and her children's classic, The Wonderful Adventures of Nils. Another world-famous Swedish children's author is Astrid Lindgren, creator of the Pippi Longstocking books.

In the visual arts, prominent Swedish names include the sculptor Carl Milles and the jewelry maker Sigurd Persson. The Swedish film industry has gained a worldwide audience for its films, especially those of its director Ingmar Bergman, whose internationally known films include The Seventh Seal, Persona, and Fanny and Alexander. Famous Swedish film stars include Ingrid Bergman and Max von Sydow. The creator of the Nobel Prize itself was a SwedeAlfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite.


Swedes entering the work force, like people in most industrialized countries, face bright prospects. Sweden has a stable, growing economy and is a world leader in engineering and science. Swedes take great pride in their jobs (professions are listed with names in the phone book), and Swedish-made products are world-renowned for their quality and durability. This is especially true of the automobiles, the Volvo and the Saab, which are considered two of the finest-made cars in the world.

Sweden's labor force is divided almost equally between men and women. About 67 percent are employed in the service sector, 31 percent in industry, and 2 percent in agriculture. Unemployment in Sweden has been low compared to other European countries (under 5 percent in 1992) but is rising due to cuts in defense spending and government employment. About 85 percent of the Swedish work force is unionized. The minimum age for employment is sixteen; persons under that age may be hired during school vacations for easy jobs that last five days or less.

There are extensive worker training programs in Sweden, provided by both government and industry. These programs help train unemployed workers for new jobs, and train current workers for better jobs or to prepare them for new technology.

Though Sweden has some of the highest taxes in the world, it generously pays a pension that is two-thirds of the worker's pre-retirement salary. Swedish retirees enjoy other benefits, such as health insurance and half-priced prescriptions.


There are about 40,000 sports clubs throughout Sweden. The most popular sport is soccer (called fotboll; FOOT-boll). Favorite winter sports include cross-country and downhill skiing, and long-distance skating. Popular water sports include swimming, rowing, and sailing, and many Swedes also enjoy cycling. Major annual events for amateur athletes include the Vasa cross-country ski race, the Vace, the Vansbro swim meet, and the Liding the Swedish tennis team won the Davis Cup for the fourth time. Outstanding Swedish athletes include alpine skier Ingemar Stenmark, and tennis great Björn Borg.


Many of the Swedes' leisure hours are devoted to outdoor activities that enable them to enjoy their country's beautiful natural scenery. It is common to retreat to rural areas during weekends and vacations. The summer cottage by the lake is a common sight. Altogether there are about 600,000 summer homes in Sweden, many in abandoned rural areas. The islands near Stockholm are especially popular sites for these retreats. In recent years, it has also become popular to take winter vacations in Mediterranean resort areas. Walking is a favorite pastime in Sweden, and marked walking paths can be found throughout the country. Sailing on Sweden's rivers and lakes is also very popular: about one in every five households owns a boat.


The Swedes are known for their high-quality handicrafts. Handmade utensils have been produced since the beginning of the nineteenth century; the primary textiles are wool and flax. Swedish crystal and glassof which 90 percent is produced at the Orrefors factoryare famous worldwide, and half of the country's production is exported, much of it to the United States. The Dalarna region is known for its distinctive wooden horses with their brightly painted designs. Folk influences are evident in modern Swedish ceramics, woodwork, textiles, furniture, silver, and other products.


Like several neighboring countries, Sweden has a high rate of alcoholism. Organizations devoted to helping people deal with this problem have about 6,000 local chapters altogether. Anotherand possibly relatedproblem is absenteeism from work, which rose sharply in the late 1980s. One of out every four workers calls in sick on any given day. There has also been some discontent with the high taxes necessary to fund Sweden's extensive network of social services.

A relatively new and sweeping social problem in Sweden is that of racism. A neo-Nazi group similar to the "skinheads" of the United States is VAM ("Vit Ariskt Motstand" or "White Aryan Resistance"), which in recent years has experienced an increase in membership.


Alderton, Mary. Sweden. Blue Guide. New York: Norton, 1995.

Gall, Timothy, and Susan Gall, eds. Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of the Nations. Detroit: UXL, 1996.

Gan, Delice. Sweden. New York: Marshall Cavendish, 1992.

Gerholm, Lena. "Swedes." In Encyclopedia of World Cultures (Europe ). Boston: G. K. Hall, 1992.

Hintz, Martin. Sweden. "Enchantment of the World" Series. Chicago: Children's Press, 1994.

Keeler, Stephen, and Chris Fairclough. We Live in Sweden. New York: Bookwright Press, 1985.

Sweden in Pictures. Minneapolis, Minn.: Lerner Publications Co., 1990.


Embassy of Sweden, Washington, D.C. [Online] Available, 1998.

Swedish Travel & Tourism Council. [Online] Available, 1998.

World Travel Guide. Sweden. [Online] Available, 1998.

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Rose Hip Soup............................................................. 12
Creamy Dipping Sauce................................................ 13
Glazed Carrots ............................................................ 13
Jansson's Frestelse ("Jansson's Temptation")................ 14
Köttbulla (Swedish Meatballs) ..................................... 14
Klimp (Dumplings)...................................................... 15
Blandad Fruktsoppa (Swedish Fruit Soup).................... 15
Pepparkakor (Ginger Cookies)..................................... 16
Lussekatter (St. Lucia Saffron Buns) ............................. 17
Julgröt (Swedish Christmas Porridge) .......................... 18
Svart Vinbärsglögg (Black Currant Glögg) ................... 18
Plättar (Swedish Pancakes) .......................................... 19
Artsoppa (Pea Soup) ................................................... 20
Rågbröd (Swedish Rye Bread)...................................... 20
Hasselbackspotatis (Roasted Potatoes)......................... 21
Smörgås med ost och päron (Cheese-Pear Sandwich) . 22


Sweden is the fourth-largest country in Europe. It is the largest Scandinavian country (the other countries in Scandinavia are Denmark, Finland, and Norway). About 15 percent of Sweden's total area lies north of the Arctic Circle. Because of the effect of warm ocean winds, Sweden has higher temperatures than its northerly latitude would suggest. Sweden's relatively slow population growth and strong conservation policies have preserved the country's extensive forests. However, air and water pollution are both serious problems. Airborne sulfur pollutants have made more than 16,000 lakes so acidic that fish can no longer breed in them.


Sweden's climate and location are largely responsible for the development of its cuisine. Early inhabitants stocked food supplies to prepare for the start of the country's long, cold winters by preserving meat, fish, fruits, and vegetables.

The Vikings, who inhabited all of Scandinavia more than one thousand years ago, were some of the first to develop a method for preserving foods. In preparation for long voyages, foods were salted, dehydrated, and cured. Though modern-day technology (such as the refrigerator and freezer) has eliminated the need for such preserving methods, Swedes continue to salt, dehydrate, and cure many of their foods, particularly fish.

During the Viking era, a.d. 800 to 1050, these ruthless crusaders embarked on raids all across Europe, invading lands possibly as far south as the Mediterranean Sea. The British Isles and France were in close proximity to Scandinavia, and therefore endured continuous Viking invasions. Over time, various foods such as tea from England, French sauces and soups, and honey cakes from Germany were brought back to Scandinavian territory and incorporated into the diet. Swedes still find soups a great way to use leftover food.

Historically, Swedish cuisine has not been as popular as other European fare. (Even modern-day restaurants in Sweden tend to serve more foreign dishes than their own.) It has, however, been influential. The Russian nation is said to have been established by Scandinavian traders and warriors (called Varangians), and Sweden may be responsible for introducing fruit soups, smoked meats, cream sauces, and herring to early Russians.

Rose Hip Soup


  • 1½ to 2 cups dried rose hips (fruit of a rose plant; available at health food stores)
  • 1½ quarts (6 cups) water
  • ¼ to ½ cup sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon potato starch (cornstarch may be substituted)


  1. Rinse the rose hips and put them in a large kettle. Crush them lightly against the pan, using a wooden spoon.
  2. Add the water and heat to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer until the rose hips are tender.
  3. Transfer to a blender or food processor and purée. (There should be about 5 cups of liquid; if there is less, add water.)
  4. Pour the puréed rose hips back into the saucepan and add the sugar.
  5. Stir and cook over medium heat. Dissolve the potato or cornstarch in a small amount of cold water and stir into the soup slowly.
  6. Remove from heat when it begins to boil.
  7. Chill before serving. Serve cold with ice cream or whipped cream.
  8. Top with slivered almonds or corn flakes.

Serves 5 to 6.

Creamy Dipping Sauce

This tastes delicious with all fish, and vegetables such as boiled artichokes and broccoli, served as separate dishes.


  • ¾ cup butter
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1½ cups cream
  • Lemon juice, to taste


  1. Melt the butter in top of a double boiler. Have water underneath simmering, not boiling.
  2. Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites one at a time and discard the egg whites.
  3. Beat the yolks with the cream until stiff. Add the cream and eggs and beat constantly.
  4. Continue until the sauce is foamy and slightly thick.
  5. Remove from the stove and add the lemon juice, to taste.

Glazed Carrots


  • 12 small carrots
  • Water
  • Salt
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 teaspoons sugar


  1. Rinse the carrots and boil them in salted water until tender.
  2. Drain and peel while the carrots are still hot.
  3. Melt the butter and sugar in a saucepan and add carrots, leaving them until they are well covered with glaze. This goes best with roasted meat.

Serves 4.


Traditional Swedish home cooking (called husmanskost ) is simple in comparison with other European cuisines, but it is anything but ordinary. Husmanskost, once referring to tasteless porridge and other gruel, has come to represent savory stews, roasts, and various seafood.

The ultimate in husmanskost is the Swedish smörgåsbord (SMUR-gawssboord), which is a number of small hot and cold dishes served buffet-style. The literal meaning of the word is "bread and butter table." The term has become world famous, representing a collection of various foods, presented all at once. The traditional Swedish smörgåsbord commonly includes herring (fish); smoked eel; roast beef; jellied fish; boiled potatoes; lingonsylt (LING-onnseelt; lingonberry jam); Janssons frestelse (YAHN-sons FREH-stehl-seh; "Jansson's temptation"), a layered potato dish containing onions and cream, topped with anchovies (fish); and köttbulla (CHURT-boolar; Swedish meatballs), which have also won worldwide acclaim. It is easy to see why the literal meaning of smörgåsbord, "bread and butter table," does the feast little justice.

Surrounded by water on almost all sides, it is no surprise that Swedes love seafood, especially salmon, which is typically smoked, marinated, or cured with dill and salt. (No other country seems to surpass Sweden in the number of ways fish is prepared.) Herring, another popular catch, is prepared in just as many ways, and is often eaten alongside breads, cheese, and eggs for breakfast. Crayfish and eel are also enjoyed.

The method of pickling and preserving food is one way Swedish cuisine sets itself apart from other countries. Fresh, home-grown ingredients, rich and creamy sauces (a French trait), and seasonal fresh fruits, such as the country's native lingonberries, also contribute to Sweden's growing culinary reputation around the world. Aside from international differences, Swedish cuisine also has regional distinctions. Pitepalt (pork-filled potato dumplings) are popular in the far north, pytt i panna (a fried dish made from diced potatoes and meat or ham, served with eggs) is favored in the southern region, while the east coast's most important food is strömming, a small, silvery Baltic herring. In any of the three locations, no meal is complete without the accompaniment of Swedish rye bread.

Jansson's Frestelse ("Jansson's Temptation")


  • 2 medium onions, sliced
  • 3 Tablespoons butter or margarine, divided
  • 4 to 5 medium potatoes
  • 2 cans (2 ounces each) anchovy fillets (optional)
  • 1½ cups whipping cream


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Sauté the onions in 1 Tablespoon butter or margarine until soft.
  3. Peel potatoes and slice lengthwise thinly.
  4. Butter a baking dish and layer the potatoes, onions, and anchovies, finishing with another layer of potatoes. Spread remaining butter on top.
  5. Bake the dish, adding half of the cream after 10 minutes. Add the remainder of the cream after another 10 minutes.
  6. After 30 minutes reduce the heat to 300°F and bake for another 30 minutes.
  7. Casserole is ready when potatoes are soft. Serve immediately.

Serves at least 10 as an appetizer. To reheat, add a little more cream if dry.

Köttbulla (Swedish Meatballs)


  • 1½ pounds ground beef
  • ½ pound ground lean pork
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons salt
  • 2 Tablespoons onion, chopped
  • Butter, for frying


  1. Combine ground beef and ground pork in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Melt butter in a saucepan, add chopped onion, and cook until onion is golden (do not burn).
  3. Add cooked onions and all the other ingredients to the ground meat and mix thoroughly by hand until smooth.
  4. Shape the mixture into balls with a spoon dipped in hot water or using your hands.
  5. Place the balls in the remaining butter in the same saucepan used to prepare the onions, and brown evenly.

Serves 6.

Klimp (Dumplings)


  • 2 Tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 5 Tablespoons flour
  • 1¾ cups milk
  • 2 egg yolks
  • Salt and pepper
  • Parsley, finely chopped, for garnish


  1. Melt butter in a saucepan. Add the flour and stir well.
  2. Add the milk and bring to a boil while stirring. Continue to boil for a few minutes, then remove the saucepan from the burner.
  3. Beat in egg yolks and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes.
  4. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Place dough into a bowl that has been rinsed in water. Allow the dough to cool.
  6. Tip the bowl to slide the dough onto a plate. Form the dough into little balls, using a spoon dipped in water.
  7. Sprinkle with parsley to garnish.

Makes 4 servings.

Blandad Fruktsoppa (Swedish Fruit Soup)


  • 1 package (11-ounce) mixed dried fruits (1¾ cups)
  • ½ cup golden seedless raisins
  • Cinnamon sticks, 3 to 4 inches long
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 medium orange cut in ¼-inch slices
  • 2¼ cups unsweetened pineapple juice
  • ½ cup currant jelly
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
  • ¼ teaspoon salt


  1. Combine mixed dried fruits, raisins, cinnamon, and water in a large pot.
  2. Bring to a boil, then simmer uncovered until fruits are tender, about 30 minutes.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil again and cover, cooking over low heat 15 more minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Serve warm or chilled.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.


Lutheranism is Sweden's state religion, with approximately ninety percent of Swedes belonging to the Church of Sweden. The Christian holiday of Christmas (Jul ) is uniquely celebrated in Sweden. Lasting for an entire month, Christmas commences on December 13, Saint Lucia Day, named for Lucia of Sicily who was murdered for her Christian faith. (According to legend, Lucia brought food to Sweden during a famine, centuries after her death.) The eldest daughter of each household, dressed in a white gown, a red sash, and a halo of brightly lit candles (modern-day halos feature battery-operated candles with light bulbs) adorning her head, plays the role of Lucia each year. Before dawn, she wakens her parents and serves them hot coffee and saffron buns.

The largest feast of the year takes place on Christmas Eve, when either a juicy ham, or lutfisk (sometimes spelled lutefisk, dried fish cured with a lye mixture) with creamy dipping sauce, is served as the main dish. Julgröt, porridge similar to rice pudding, is also traditionally served. A lucky almond, often hidden in one of the porridges, is believed to grant good fortune to the person who finds it.

After a full month of feasting on ginger cookies, cardamom (a type of spice) breads, and egg coffee, Tjugondag Knut (Saint Knut's Day), January 13, ends the Christmas season.

The Swedes feast on traditional foods that are unique to the Easter season. Halibut or salmon are the typical entrées of choice on Good Friday, with the main meal on Easter Sunday being lamb and hard-boiled eggs, often decorated with food coloring and designs. Shrove Tuesday, the last day before Lent, is traditionally observed by eating semlor, a cream- and almond-filled bun floating in a bowl of warm milk.

The Feast of Valborg (also known as Walpurgis Night, April 30) and the summer solstice (Midsummer Day) are two of the most important secular holidays in Sweden. Both days celebrate the blessings of the sun. With every day that follows Walpurgis Night, the sun shines brighter and longer until the summer solstice arrives, when potatoes and fresh strawberries with whipped cream are commonly eaten.

A Typical Christmas Eve Menu

Baked lutfisk with cream sauce

Swedish meatballs

Boiled potatoes

Green peas

Rice pudding

Egg coffee

An assortment of Christmas cookies

Pepparkakor (Ginger Cookies)


  • 1 cup butter
  • 1½ cups sugar, sifted
  • 1 Tablespoon corn syrup
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cloves
  • 2½ cups flour, sifted


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Mix together the butter, sugar, and syrup until smooth and creamy.
  3. Add the egg and beat well.
  4. Stir in the baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves.
  5. Slowly add the flour to make a stiff dough. Add enough flour to make dough easy to handle without sticking to fingers or cookie press.
  6. Using the bar design of a cookie press, press out several long strips of dough on ungreased cookie sheets.
  7. If no cookie press is available, shape dough into rectangles with your hands.
  8. Bake for 7 minutes until cookies are medium brown.
  9. Remove them from the oven and let rest for 1 minute before cutting them into 2-inch pieces.
  10. Remove cookies from cookie sheets when cool. Store in an airtight container.

Makes 7 to 8 dozen.

Lussekatter (St. Lucia Saffron Buns)


  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • ½ cup warm water
  • cup lukewarm milk
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup margarine, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ teaspoon cardamom, ground
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon powdered saffron
  • 5 to 5½ cups flour
  • ½ cup raisins
  • Margarine, softened
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 1 Tablespoon water
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar


  1. Dissolve the yeast in warm water.
  2. Stir in the milk, ½ cup sugar, ½ cup margarine, 2 eggs, cardamom, salt, saffron, and 3 cups of the flour. Beat until smooth.
  3. Stir in enough of remaining flour to make dough easy to handle.
  4. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface; knead until smooth (about 8 minutes).
  5. Place in a greased bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled (about 1 hour).
  6. Punch down on dough; divide into 24 parts.
  7. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  8. Shape each piece into rope, and form an S-shape, tucking the ends into a coil.
  9. Place a raisin in the center of each end coil. Place rolls on greased cookie sheet.
  10. Brush the tops lightly with margarine and let rise until doubled (about 30 minutes).
  11. Mix 1 egg and 1 Tablespoon water and brush the buns lightly. Sprinkle with 2 Tablespoons of sugar.
  12. Bake for 1520 minutes.

Makes 24 buns.

Julgröt (Swedish Christmas Porridge)


  • 1 cup rice
  • 4 cups water
  • ½ cup butter
  • ½ pint light cream
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar


  1. Rinse the rice in a sieve or colander. Measure the water into a saucepan and heat it to boiling.
  2. Add the rice and simmer on low heat until soft, about 1 hour.
  3. Measure the cream into a bowl, and whip it, using an electric mixer, until soft peaks form.
  4. When the rice is soft, remove from heat and cool slightly (about 10 minutes). Add cold butter and whipped cream; mix well.
  5. Return pan to low heat and heat the porridge thoroughly, being careful not to let it boil.
  6. Add the salt and sugar and mix well. Serve with cold milk.

Serves 6.

Svart Vinbärsglögg (Black Currant Glögg)


  • ¾ cup apple juice
  • 1½ cups black currant fruit syrup (may substitute other berry syrup if black currant is not available)
  • 1½ cups water
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom seeds
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4 whole cloves
  • ½ cup blanched sweet almonds and ½ cup raisins, as accompaniments


  1. Stir the ingredients together in a large saucepan and bring to a boil.
  2. Remove from heat and let stand in a cool place overnight.
  3. Strain the spices and reheat the glögg.
  4. Serve in mugs together with almonds and raisins.

Makes about 1 quart, serving 4 to 6.


The Swedish smörgåsbord, perhaps Sweden's best known culinary tradition, has specific customs to follow. Despite the meal's pick-and-choose display, dishes should be eaten in a specific order. It is most appropriate to begin with herring and other fish, followed by cold meats, salads, and egg dishes. Next, hot dishes such as Swedish meatballs and cooked vegetables should be selected. Fruit salad or ostkaka (cheese-cake) may be eaten last. A clean plate should be used with each new trip to the food table, but diners take only small portions, since wasted food is considered impolite. Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) began offering a small smörgåsbord at the gate before boarding the aircraft in the late 1990s, including sandwiches, yogurt, fruit, candy, and juice, and continued this tradition into the early twenty-first century.

Guests in a Swedish home should observe certain customs. In many households, wearing shoes beyond the front door is discouraged. Hosts will often walk around in socks (and will expect their guests to do the same). A small gift of appreciation given to the host is often appropriate, particularly if a visit is unexpected. In addition, guests should not be surprised to see pancakes for dinner, and coffee only offered black. When a popular alcoholic beverage, aquavit, is served, everyone at the table makes eye contact and takes the first sip simultaneously.

Plättar (Swedish Pancakes)


  • 3 eggs
  • 1¼ cups milk
  • ¾ cup flour, sifted
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Lingonberry sauce (raspberry sauce may be substituted)


  1. Beat the 3 eggs until thick.
  2. Stir in the milk, flour, sugar, and salt, mixing until smooth.
  3. Drop a small amount of batter (about 1 Tablespoon for a 3-inch pancake) onto a moderately hot, buttered griddle.
  4. Spread the batter evenly to make thin cakes.
  5. Turn the cakes over when the underside is lightly browned.
  6. Keep finished pancakes on towel-covered baking sheet in a warm oven.
  7. Before serving, spoon melted butter over the pancakes and sprinkle them with sugar.
  8. Serve with lingonberry sauce for dessert after pea soup on Thursdays.

Makes about 42 pancakes.

Children find sandwiches tasty and easy to prepare; however, schools provide free lunches, typically consisting of meatballs, gravy, potatoes, pickles, and milk.

Authentic Swedish cuisine can be found in abundance throughout the country. Frukost (breakfast) is likely to be fairly large, serving coffee, juice, or tea, followed by bröd (breads), ost (cheese), ägg (eggs), and strömming (herring). Äta (lunch), normally served between noon and 1 p.m., may be an open-face meat sandwich, kaldolmar (stuffed cabbage), or even a hamburger from one of the many local fast food restaurants. Middag (dinner) immediately follows the end of the workday and consists of a variety of hot and cold dishes. Formerly, Swedish Catholics observed the tradition of not eating meat on Fridays, so the traditional Thursday night supper was hearty artsoppa (pea soup with ham) and plättar (pancakes). Although many have given up the meatless Friday tradition, artsoppa and plättar are still commonly served on Thursdays in Swedish homes and restaurants.

Artsoppa (Pea Soup)


  • 2 cups split peas
  • 8 cups cold water
  • Ham bone, scraps of baked ham
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ginger (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon marjoram (optional)
  • Croutons (optional)


  1. Rinse the peas and discard any that are shriveled or discolored.
  2. In a large saucepan or soup kettle, place the peas, water, ham bone and scraps, onion, carrot, and seasonings.
  3. Simmer on low heat for 2 to 3 hours, covered, stirring occasionally. Remove the ham bone and discard it.
  4. Serve, with croutons floating in each bowl, if desired.

Serves 6.

Rågbröd (Swedish Rye Bread)


  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 2½ Tablespoons shortening
  • ½ cup molasses
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon anise, ground
  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • ¼ cup warm water
  • 2 cups rye flour
  • 4 to 5 cups white flour


  1. Scald (heat just to boiling) the milk in a saucepan. Remove from heat, and add the water, shortening, molasses, ½ cup sugar, salt, and anise. Cool to lukewarm.
  2. Dissolve the yeast and 1 Tablespoon sugar in the ¼ cup of warm water.
  3. When the milk mixture is lukewarm, add the yeast mixture and rye flour and mix until smooth.
  4. Add the white flour, one cup at a time, until the dough is easy to handle. Knead the dough for 8 minutes.
  5. Clean the mixing bowl, and butter it thoroughly. Place the dough into the greased bowl, turning the dough to coat it with butter on all sides.
  6. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and allow it to sit in a warm place until the dough is about doubled in size. (About 1 hour.)
  7. Divide dough into 3 balls. Cover the balls with plastic wrap and let them "rest" for 15 minutes.
  8. Form the balls into loaves and place them in well-greased tins. Cover the pans with plastic wrap, and let the dough rise until double in size. (30 minutes to 1 hour.)
  9. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  10. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes.
  11. After removing loaves from the oven, brush with melted butter. Remove from pans and allow to cool on wire racks.

Hasselbackspotatis (Roasted Potatoes)


  • 8 medium potatoes
  • 4 Tablespoons butter, melted and divided
  • Salt
  • 3 Tablespoons breadcrumbs


  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. Peel the potatoes and slice down through each at -inch intervals, but do not slice completely through.
  3. Pat potatoes dry with a paper towel.
  4. Generously butter a baking dish and place the potatoes in it, cut side up.
  5. Baste the potatoes with 2 Tablespoons of the melted butter and sprinkle them with salt. Bake for 30 minutes.
  6. Baste the potatoes with the remaining butter and sprinkle with breadcrumbs.
  7. Bake for another 15 minutes or until done.

Serves 8.

Smörgås med ost och päron (Cheese and Pear Sandwich)


  • 1 Tablespoon butter or margarine
  • 5 slices white bread
  • 5 small lettuce leaves
  • ¼ pound blue cheese
  • 2 ripe pears
  • ½ lemon
  • 1 red pepper, finely sliced


  1. Butter the bread and trim off the crusts.
  2. Slice the bread diagonally, making triangles.
  3. Top each slice with a lettuce leaf.
  4. Mash the blue cheese with a fork.
  5. Slice the unpeeled pears lengthwise into slices about ¼-inch thick.
  6. Rub them with the lemon half and put a slice of pear on each bread triangle.
  7. Top the pears with a spoonful of mashed blue cheese.
  8. Garnish with a thin slice of red pepper.

Makes 10 portions.


Sweden has been called the model welfare state because every citizen is guaranteed medical care. In the 1990s, health care reform issues such as universal and equal access to medical services, as well as equal funding of health care were addressed. Sweden's deep concern for equal human rights has helped lead to a healthier population.

Infant mortality has been sharply reduced in recent years, and remains one of the lowest rates in the world, much in part to the country's excellent prenatal services for unborn children. In addition, children and teens receive free dental care until the age of 20. Most health problems are associated with the environment and lifestyle choices, such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and overeating.



Ingeborg, Helen. How to Make a Swedish Christmas! Sedro-Woolley, WA: The Tailor's Daughter Pinstripe Publishing, 1991.

Norberg, Inga. Good Food from Sweden. New York: Sweden House, Inc., 1996.

Ojakangas, Beatrice. Scandinavian Cooking. Tucson, AZ: HPBooks, 1983.

Thompson, Martha Wiberg, ed. Superbly Swedish Recipes and Traditions. Iowa City, IA: Penfield Press, 1983.

Visson, Lynn. The Russian Heritage Cookbook. Dana Point, CA: Ardis Publishers, 1998.

Web Sites

City Guide: Sweden. [Online] Available (accessed March 12, 2001).

GoSweden. [Online] Available (accessed March 12, 2001).

Svensk Hyllningsfest 2001. [Online] Available (accessed March 12, 2001).

Sweden Information Smorgasbord. [Online] Available (accessed March 12, 2001).

Swedish Chef Too. [Online] Available (accessed March 12, 2001).

Swedish Kitchen. [Online] Available (accessed March 13, 2001).

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Identification. The origin of the name "Swedes" (svenskar ) is swaensker, which means "from Svealand."

Location. Sweden is located between 55° and 69° N and 24° E. Sweden lies in northwestern Europe in the Scandinavian Peninsula bounded by Norway in the west, Finland in the northeast, Denmark in the southwest, the Gulf of Bothnia in the east, the Baltic Sea in the southeast, and the North Sea in the southwest. Sweden's main regions are, from the north, the northern mountain and lake region named Norrland; the lowlands of central Sweden known as Svealand; the low Småland highlands and the plains of Skåne, both areas in Götaland. Sweden has a coastline that is sometimes rocky and consists of large archipelagoes, skärgård. About 15 percent of the country lies within the Arctic Circle, and the climatic differences in the country are substantial. Snow is found in the mountainous regions in the north for approximately eight months out of the year, but in the south only about one month. The waters of the west coast are almost always ice-free, but the northern Baltic is usually icecovered from November to May. The growing period is about three months in the north and eight in the south.

Demography. In 1990 the Swedish population was about 8,590,630, including a Saami population in Lappland and a Finnish-speaking group, Tornedalians, along the border of Finland, both consisting of approximately 15,000-17,000 persons.

Linguistic Affiliation. The Swedish language belongs to the North Germanic (Scandinavian) Subgroup of the Germanic languages. It is related to Norwegian, Danish, Icelandic, and Faroese. It has been influenced by German, French, English, and Finnish. The Saami and the Tornedalians understand and speak Swedish, but they form special linguistic groups. Immigration to Sweden after World War II has created many new language groups.

History and Cultural Relations

It is most likely that the first migrations to Sweden occurred about 12,000 b.c. when tribes of reindeer hunters followed the herds from the Continent to Sweden. The Sviones (Swedes) are mentioned by Tacitus (a.d. 98); this indicates that trade links between the Roman Empire and Scandinavia existed. During the Iron Age (500 b.c.-a.d. 1050) the Lake Mälaren valley, in central Sweden, became an influential area, with the Svea tribe in the leading position. The Vikings (c. a.d. 800-1050) were traders who made voyages to many of the Christian countries of Europe. Many of them stayed in countries such as France, England, and Scotland. Many geographical names in these countries are of Scandinavian origin. The Vikings controlled several trade routes in contemporary eastern Russia, but from the tenth century they began to lose their foothold in this market. During the period of 800-1050 Sweden was frequently visited by Christian missionaries from France, Norway, Denmark, Russia, and Germany. Toward the end of the tenth century, Sweden had been transformed into a Christian kingdom and a united state. In the thirteenth-century Swedish "crusades," Swedenwith the double goal of Christianization and conquestmoved against Finland and the eastern Baltic coast. By the mid-thirteenth century, several Hansa merchants were established in Sweden, and an increase in trade with the Hansa cities followed. German involvement in Scandinavia led to the unification of Scandinavian countries in 1397 under the Kalmar Union; this lasted until 1448. In the following period Sweden was involved in wars with Finland and crushed a Danish attempt to recreate a union. During the seventeenth century Sweden constituted a major power consisting of present-day Sweden, Finland, Ingermanland, Estonia, Latvia, and smaller areas in northern Germany. The country was involved in war for over a hundred years, and Swedish soldiers were in Germany, Czechoslovakia, Russia, and the Baltic States. After 1721 all overseas Swedish provinces were lost with the exception of Finland and Pomerania. In the beginning of the nineteenth century, Sweden became involved in new wars with Denmark and Russia, and Finland was lost to Russia in 1809. This political border was drawn right through a former Culturally homogeneous areaTornedalenand thus Sweden obtained a Finnish-speaking minority at the border with Finland. From 1814 to 1905 Sweden was unified with Norway. During World War II, from which Sweden was spared, thousands of refugees came to Sweden, mainly from Denmark, Norway, and Finland but also from Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Before this time Sweden was unusually homogeneous in language and ethnic stock, although it had had an immigration of Germans, Walloons, Dutch, and Scots from the Middle Ages on. But since World War II Sweden has had a net immigration of about 600,000 people, primarily from the European continent but also from Latin America, Asia, and the Middle Eastern countries.

Today there are representatives of 166 different nations living in Sweden. The number of ethnic groups is even higher. There is also a Swedish minority in North America. During the nineteenth century, over a million Swedes emigrated Because of difficult living conditions.


As a result of variations in ecological conditions and Inheritance practices, there have been large variations between Villages in different parts of the country. Traditionally, the largest villages were in Dalecarlia, in the valley of Norrland, and on the rich plains of Skåne. There are also variations in the form of the villages. In Dalecarlia the houses have often been built in irregular and open clusters (klungbyar, cluster villages). In other parts, the villages have had a more closed and regular structure, as for example in Svealand and Gotaland where the villages were often built as a row of houses (radbyar, row villages). In Skåne the villages have often been constructed around an open place (rundby, circle villages). There have been five main forms of traditional housing design in the Swedish villages. The northern Swedish farmyard consisted of several buildings around a grassy yard. In the central Swedish yards the main house and the farmhouse were separated by a building, often a stable with a gate. The third type (Gothic) had a long, rectangular form, with the farmhouse separated from the main house by a fence. The western Swedish type was an irregular and loose construction of houses. The southern Swedish farmyard consisted of four long row houses built together. These square houses in Skåne were built with brick, and clay was applied over a stick frame. In the rest of the country, wood has been the most common construction material. Houses built in contemporary Sweden are basically the same throughout the country. Because of urbanization many empty houses are now used as summer houses. The relatively few castles and manors are found only in southern and central Sweden.


Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Preindustriai Sweden was an agrarian country. Farming was the most Common subsistence activity, always combined with stock raising and often with forestry, handicraft, trade, and transportation. Farming was combined with fishing along the coasts and around the many big lakes. Today agriculture has diminished. In 1990 it employed only 3.3 percent of the working population. The main agricultural products are dairy produce, meat, cereals, and potatoes.

Industrial Arts. Iron ore and lumber are the basic raw materials. Besides lumber, the modern forest industry produces paper, board, pulp, rayon, plastics, and turpentine. Sweden also is able to exploit hydroelectric power thanks to its many rivers with waterfalls. The country has two big car manufacturing companies (Volvo and Saab), a telecommunications industry (Ericsson), a manufacturer of roller and ball bearings (SKF), a producer of household appliances (Electrolux), and a company producing electric motors, steam turbines, and equipment for hydroelectric power plants (ASEA-Brown Bovery).

Trade. About one-half of the industrial production is exported. Iron, steel, and forest productssuch as paper and paper boardare important as well as different kinds of manufactured commodities, especially machinery and Transportation equipment. Sweden's largest export markets are Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Norway, in that order. Engineering products, cars and other motor vehicles, machinery, computers, chemical products, fuel, and crude oil dominate the imports to Sweden. The supplying countries are Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Denmark.

Division of Labor. In the old peasant society, cattle raising was female work, while horses were part of the male world. Threshing was regarded mainly as men's work, but in eastern Dalecarlia it belonged to the women's sphere. Women from this area even worked as professional threshers during seasonal work periods. Textile production has been a female job, except in Halland, where men, boys, and women traditionally produced knitwear for sale. The general tendency is that in areas where agriculture has been a sideline, women have carried out several tasks that traditionally belonged to the male sphere in typical agricultural areas. Child labor was usual in preindustrial Sweden as well as during the first period of industrialization (1850-1900). Children worked in the sawmills, factories, glassworks, and ironworks. In contemporary Sweden, ethnic niches have started to emerge. There are restaurants owned by Chinese, pizza shops, sweet stalls, and small grill-restaurants owned by immigrants from the Middle Eastern countries. Assyrians and Syrians are involved in traditional trades such as tailoring and shoemaking. Together with Kurds and Turks, they also trade in fruit and vegetables. Land Tenure. Before 1827, when a statute on enclosures (foga skifte ) was passed, the fields of each farm were split up in several small lots in various places. The agricultural modernization of 1827 meant that the fields of each farm could be assembled together in a compact area. These enclosures of land took place during the entire nineteenth century and changed the countryside radically. At the end of 1940, a new wave of structural rationalization began with the goal of creating larger and more productive units. In 1988 only 8.7 percent of Sweden's land area was utilized for agriculture. The majority farms are privately owned. An estimated 69.6 percent of the country's area is covered by forest and woodland. Corporations and other private owners control at least three-quarters of the nation's forest land and timbering.


Kinship and Descent. Swedish kinship is bilateral and cognatic. Generally the kinship system follows the same rules of other European peoples. Except for the family, kin groups have been of little importance as a focus of social organization during the most recent centuries.

Kinship Terminology. Kin terms follow the Eskimo System with local and regional variations in terminology. In some regions in northern Sweden, cousins are numbered from first to fourth. They can be called, as for example in northern Värmland, tvämänningar, tremänningar, fyrmänningar , femmänningar. In central and southern Sweden the words syssling, brylling, pyssling are used instead of the number of the cousins.

Marriage and Family

Marriage. In preindustrial Sweden, marriage was an Economic agreement between two families and not, as today, a private affair. The marriage ritual included exchanges of gifts and economic transactions between the two families. The dowry that the bride should bring into the marriage was carefully stipulated. This dowry, as well as a gift she got from her husband, belonged to her. In cases of childlessness, the dowry went back to the wife's family. Because of economic and Social differences in Sweden, there have been variations in the degree of parental control over marriage partners. Strategic marriages, even sibling exchange, have been much more Common among the wealthy farmers in the south than among the poor forest dwellers in the north. During the last twenty years, cohabitation without marriage (to sambo, sam meaning "Together with" and bo meaning "live") has increased. This form usually precedes a marriage, and it is not unusual to have Children before marrying. In 1988 a law was passed making the partners in sambo relationships almost spouses. The divorce rate has risen during the last two decades: twice as many Marriages end in divorce now as compared to 1960.

Domestic Unit. The dominant domestic units in the Peasant society were the small, extended, and nuclear families. Today the most common type is the nuclear family.

Inheritance. Until 1845 peasant daughters inherited half as much as their brothers. In 1845 equal rights of inheritance were legally stipulated. In reality, however, there were variations in inheritance practice. Many farmers, for example, on the isle of Gotland, on the plains of Skåne, and in the valley of Mälaren, had male primogeniture. Male ultimogeniture also existed. Other families practiced partible inheritance, for example in Dalecarlia and certain parts of Norrland.

Socialization. Characteristically, young children in Swedish peasant society participated in adult tasks. The children learned about working life through observation, imitation, and practice rather than by education. In three-generational domestic units, grandparents played an important role in raising children. In contemporary Swedish families it is common for both parents to work, and all children over 18 months are entitled to a place in a daily-care center up to the age of 6 years. There are also open preschools where preschoolers can meet a few times weekly in the company of a guardian. "Leisure time centers" are available for children ages 7-12 whose parents are working or studying. These centers are open Before and after school and during vacations.

Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Strong patriarchalism was characteristic of the preindustrial family unit. In northern Sweden the master often kept his role until his death, but in the rest of the country it was normal for him to hand over the leadership to the younger generation during his later years. The older couple was then "retired" (på undantag, sytning ), and were supported for the rest of their lives. Even though the family was the basic production unit, there was also a great need for cooperation in larger units. In preindustrial Sweden there existed a large number of corporations, which were constructed through cooperation and/or joint ownership. The structure of these corporations was often nonhierarchical. If there was a leader, he was primus inter pares (first among equals).

Political Organization. In preindustrial Sweden owning land was a condition for taking part in local policy. The communal villages were led by a council of the landed gentry. An alderman could be chosen, but it was more common that the job was shared by rotation. Contemporary Sweden has been famous for its "middle way"a Socialist but non-Communist policy. Sweden is a constitutional monarchy. The hereditary monarch is head of state but has very limited formal prerogatives. Executive power rests with the cabinet (regeringen ), which is responsible to the parliament (Riksdag). In 1971 the unicameral Riksdag was introduced. Its 349 members are elected for three years by universal suffrage. The country is divided into 24 counties and 279 municipalities; local governments are responsible for important parts of public administration.

Social Control. Since the 1930s, the relationship between Swedish employees and employers has been characterized by the "Swedish model." This model implies negotiations Between the government, employers, and the trade unions, and as a result cooperation is typical in Swedish working life. Since the general strike in 1909, strikes have been rare.

Conflict. Sweden is not a member of any political or military alliance and pursues a policy of neutrality. The Swedes have lived in peace for over 170 years.

Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefe. At birth all Swedes automatically become members of the Lutheran Protestant State Church, but they have the right to leave the church. Ninety-two percent of the Swedish population belongs to it. The majority of people do not go to church regularly, but most children are baptized and confirmed, and most Swedes are married and buried by the church. During the nineteenth century there were many pietistic movements characterized by a puritan life-style. In the north of Sweden the Laestadian movement is still vital. Swedish peasant society believed that the landscape was crowded with various supernatural beings.

Religious Practitioners. Shamans were part of the Saami religion and are considered prophets of the Laestadian movement. Today the ministers of the Lutheran Protestant State Church are both male and female.

Ceremonies. There are not many religious ceremonies in contemporary Sweden. Certainly some celebrations have a Religious originAdvent, Lucia, Christmas, Easter, and Whitsuntidebut only a minority of the Swedes think of these celebrations as religious.

Arts. Swedish folk art and handicrafts present many Regional variations because of differences in the availability of raw materials. Straw products were usual in Skåne, whereas birch-bark products were common in Norrland. The Saami made, and still make, richly ornamented knives and spoons from reindeer horn. In Dalecarlia human hair was used to produce rings, necklaces, and brooches, which were sold all over Sweden until 1925, when they went out of fashion. The traditional Swedish textiles are wool and flax. A weaving technique used mainly in south and western Sweden is röllakan. Dalecarlia is famous for its wall painting. Blacksmithing is another handicraft with a long tradition. Folk art is noticeable in the modern design of glassware, ceramics, woodwork, textiles, furniture, silver, and stainless steel.

Medicine. Traditional folk medicine made use of magical objects as well as locally grown plants. As illness was often attributed to spirit possession, various kinds of healing rituals were also used. These were mainly readings, for example of charms, and various types of curing by local healers' or priests' touch. Medical knowledge was passed from one Generation to the next. During the nineteenth century, several literate healers read official medical books. They picked up fragments of information from these books, which they combined with their traditional knowledge. Sometimes this led to conflicts between local healers and district medical officers and sometimes to a division of labor, with local healers often being respected for their ability to cure allergies and various skin diseases.

Death and Afterlife. Beliefs in a life after death certainly influenced the daily life in preindustrial Sweden. Currently, such beliefs are not integrated into everyday life but are privately held. The Tornedalians in the north still practice a Funeral ritual, which in earlier days was common in several areas. Immediately after the death the family, neighbors, and close friends gather around the deceased, in his or her home, and "sing him/her out." Two weeks after this ritual, the Formal funeral takes place in the church.


Bringeus, Nils-Arvid, ed. (1973). Arbete och redskap: Materiell folkkultur pä svensk landsbygd före industrialismen. Lund: CWK Gleerup Bokförlag.

Daun, Åke (1989). Svensk mentalitet: Ett jämförande perspektiv. Stockholm: Raben & Sjögren.

Frykman, Jonas, and Orvar Löfgren (1987). Culture Builders: A Historical Anthropology of Middle-Class Life. New Brunswick and London: Rutgers University Press.

Hellspong, Mats, and Orvar Löfgren (1974). Land och stad: Svenska samhällstyper och livsformer från medeltid till nutid. Lund: CWK Gleerup Bokförlag.

Himmelstrand, Ulf, and Göran Svensson, eds. (1988). Sverige-vardag och struktur: Sociologer beskriver det svenska samhället. Stockholm: Norstedts.

Stromberg, Peter G. (1986). Symbols of a Community: The Cultural System of a Swedish Church. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.

Svanberg, Ingvar, and Harald Runblom, eds. (1990). Det mångkulturella Sverige: En handbok om etniska grupper och minoriteter. Stockholm: Gidlunds Bokförlag.


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SWEDEN. The early modern period was particularly important in the formation of Sweden as a state. During this time Sweden played a central role in northern European power politics for more than a century, the country's economy grew in scale and complexity, and it became more closely integrated into the mainstreams of European cultural and intellectual development.

Early modern "Sweden" was not what one sees today on a map. In 1500, the southern provinces of Skåne, Blekinge, and Halland belonged to Denmark, and the border areas of Bohuslän, Jämtland, and Härjedalen were parts of Norway. (Norway gradually lost its status as an independent state in the fifteenth century, and from the mid-1530s was, in all but name, a territory of Denmark.) Northern Sweden was sparsely settled and loosely controlled. Finland, smaller than it is today, was an integral part of the country. The borders of current Sweden date mostly from 1658/60 and 1809. In addition, Sweden, in a broad sense, included a Baltic empire that was built and then lost in this period. In population the country numbered, without Finland, less than a million in 1500 and around two million in 1800.


In 1397, a federation of the medieval kingdoms of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden was established, called by posterity the Kalmar Union. Denmark was its most powerful member. At several times during the fifteenth century, Sweden broke with the union, and a series of rebellions and wars of reunion punctuated the years down to the early 1520s. The last of these union wars began in 1521 and was led by Gustav Eriksson Vasa. Within three years the Swedes had established their independence, aided by the Hanseatic League and a revolt in Denmark. Gustav was elected king as Gustav I Vasa in 1523. Since then, Sweden has had an unbroken history of independent development.

Sweden's history was not, however, free of internal conflict. As elsewhere in Europe, a basic constitutional struggle ran through the entire early modern period between crown and nobility, between monarchy and aristocratic constitutionalism. Kings wanted to be kings; nobles wanted to preserve their historic rights and liberties and at least share power with the crown.

A third factor in this history was the Parliament (Riksdag), which began to develop in the fifteenth century. Called by kings or factions of great men, it dealt with matters of war, peace, taxation, and succession. Usually, a meeting included representatives from each of the four principal "estates": clergy, nobility, burghers, and freehold farmers. Over time the frequency of meetings increased, procedures were formalized, and its prerogatives grew. It was least important during the absolutist period (16801719) and most important during the Era of Liberty (17191772).

In a series of episodes that has been likened to a swinging pendulum, Sweden experienced times of strong monarchy, times of balance, and times of noble ascendancy. Gustav I Vasa was able to advance royal power, aided by the fact that many of his likely noble opponents had been executed on order of the Danish king, Christian II, in the socalled Stockholm Bloodbath in 1520. Gustav was a very able politician who played the Parliament to achieve his ends, exploited the Reformation, used the new church as a means of royal propaganda, and enhanced state finances by confiscating church lands. His sons Erik XIV (ruled 15601568), John III (ruled 15681592), and Charles IX (ruled 15991611), as well as his nephew Sigismund I (ruled 15921599), were less successful. Each antagonized factions of the nobility. Charles IX was the most ruthless, executing five noble opponents at Linköping in 1600. A new phase began with the succession of Gustavus II Adolphus (ruled 16111632). In order to secure the throne, he was compelled to promise to respect the privileges of the nobles. Until his death in 1632 a remarkably amiable cooperation developed between crown and nobility. Each needed and used the other to run the affairs of state at home and to fight wars abroad. Noble importance grew under Christina, during both her minority (16321644) and her active reign (16441654). Charles X Gustav (ruled 16541660) was an absolutist at heart, but he was unable to accomplish very much during his short reign (16541660). During the minority (16601675) of Charles XI (ruled 16751697), the high nobility recklessly ran the affairs of state. Charles was able to change the system fundamentally, however, by exploiting social discontent between commons and nobles and within the nobility. Between 1680 and 1693, Sweden was transformed into an absolutist state. Although privilege was not challenged, the crown recovered most of the domain lands donated away since the late sixteenth century and asserted the right to rule without either the nobility's advice through the council or that of the Parliament.

Absolutism lasted only until 1719. The enormous costs of war, the obsessive leadership of Charles XII (ruled 16971718), and an uncertain succession allowed leaders of the nobility to dictate a new constitution. The order of primacy was inverted during the so-called Era of Liberty (17191772). For much of this period the nobility dominated through the council and the Parliament. Toward the end the burghers and farmers played increasingly important roles. From about 1740 to 1772 a fascinating political life developed, centered on two conflicting factions, the Caps and the Hats, which resembled modern political parties. The more reform-minded Hats advocated changes that were revolutionary for the time including press freedom, laissez-faire economics, and an end to privilege. As interesting as this period was, it was fraught with problems. Some of the ideas advanced were simply too radical. More important, political strife was viewed as a way to keep Sweden weak and was encouraged through bribes and influence buying by Russia, France, and England. Gustav III (ruled 17711792) ended the experiment in August 1772 with a bloodless palace coup, and strong monarchy returned. Gustav was not content to play a minor role in anything and dreamed of restoring Sweden's greatness. An adventuresome foreign policy was coupled with a drift back toward royal absolutism, and irate nobles conspired to assassinate the king in 1792.

Despite these shifts in power and constitutional balance, Sweden developed as a reasonably well run state. Beginning around 1620, an administrative system was adopted under which responsibilities were assigned to five "colleges," each headed by one of the "great officers" of state (chancellor, treasurer, steward, marshal, and admiral). This was most clearly spelled out in the 1634 Form of Government and was likely the collaborative work of Gustavus II Adolphus and his chancellor, Axel Oxenstierna. The country's court system went through several reforms in the seventeenth century and a new national law code was promulgated in 1734. The beginnings of a national bank were created in 1668. Regional government was organized around counties (län) headed by governors. Responsibility, accountability, and reporting were standardized. Although the nobility retained its privileged claim to offices and officer appointments, ability and education were factors in selection, especially in the eighteenth century.

Sweden also went from a "domain state" to a tax and/or warfare state during this period. Before the Reformation, the crown owned only about 5 percent of the land and was expected to live from this, in theory at least. There was never enough money, however, and a system of regular taxes, primarily on the lands of freehold farmers, dates from the Middle Ages. (Noble and church lands were exempt.) The crown increased its holdings through confiscations in the Reformation, and Gustav I actually left his sons a budgetary surplus. Fiscal problems grew from the 1560s, driven by foreign policy. Concurrently, the crown's domain position worsened through donations to the nobility. By 1660, the crown held less than 10 percent of the land, while the nobility held over 60 percent. The state was forced to turn to higher taxes and more effective tax extraction from the commons, which, in turn, undercut the economic position of the freehold farmers. Sweden was spared a social-economic revolution by the radical reduction (reclaiming) of noble holdings carried through by Charles XI after 1680. During the Great Northern War (17001721) taxes rose again. They remained high for much of the eighteenth century, while crown holdings diminished through direct sale.


The imperial phase in Swedish history lasted from about 1560 to 1721. Growth defines the first one hundred years, decline the last sixty. In the growth phase Finland was enlarged, Kexholm, Ingermanland, Estonia, Livonia, Pomerania, Wismar, and Bremen-Verden were added, and the Danish and Norwegian territories bordering the kingdom were annexed. During the 1650s, Sweden also operated a trade fort at Cape Coast (Ghana), and it maintained a colony in North America between 1638 and 1655. The high point in the empire's history was reached in 1658. Small losses were incurred in 1660. The worst came in the last decade of the Great Northern War (17001721), when, except for Pomerania, Wismar, and most of Finland, all the Baltic territories were lost. More of Finland was taken by Russia in the 1740s. In the closing decades of the century, Gustav III dreamed of restoring the empire and Sweden's importance. A war against Russia in 17881790 gained nothing. Finland became a Russian grand duchy in 1809.

The imperial chapter in Swedish history has long attracted the attention of historians. Why did the leaders of this poor and sparsely populated country choose to build and maintain an empire, and how did they manage to do so? Sweden's assets, relative to the weaknesses of the competitors, made possible its expansive policies. Once begun, the empire became a kind of imperative and for a time even paid for itself. International rivalries also encouraged the establishment of imperial outposts. For survival in a competitive state system, Sweden needed to have places and resources outside the country proper to support its security. There were also economic motives. Merchants sought to control the lucrative Baltic trade, while Sweden's acquisitive nobility found in the empire a setting for military careers and a source of spoils. In addition, the personal fortunes and careers of individual nobles, support of the Lutherans in Germany and fears of the Catholic Counter-Reformation, exploitation of the empire to enhance the status of the crown, and the competitive nature of the European state system are cited.


For the most part Sweden was and remained a poor agricultural state throughout the early modern period. Except for the far south and the area around Lake Mälaren, soils were generally poor. Tools and methods were centuries old. Yields could be pitifully small. Crop failures and the ensuing famines were frequent. Grains, livestock, milk, butter, and cheese were the main products. Many farmers supplemented their incomes by working in the forests, mining, or fishing. Whether held by the crown, nobility, or commons, agricultural life was organized around villages. Land was "owned" in small strips and worked collectively. In a few areas single-owner farmsteads prevailed. Some important changes were initiated in the eighteenth century. Cultivation of the potato became increasingly common after about 1750. Its adoption had important dietary results and symbolized a growing willingness to experiment with new crops. At the same time, an effort to consolidate the small strip holdings of many farmers into fewer fields and to break up the old agricultural villages was begun. This would take nearly a century to complete.

Sweden possessed four great assets beyond its arable land: the riches of the inland lakes and rivers and the seas surrounding the country, coniferous forests (sources of timber, charcoal, and tar), iron ore from the Bergslagen region of east-central Sweden, and copper chiefly from the great mine, Stora Kopparberget, at Falun. These resources were essential to Sweden's achievements in the period. Herring, bar iron, smelted copper, masts and spars, and tar were vital products in European markets and Sweden's most important exports. For part of the seventeenth century, Sweden was Europe's leading supplier of copper. Bar iron became more important in the eighteenth century. Also, these resources attracted technology and investment and stimulated domestic shipbuilding, finished metal production, and armaments industries. The state played important roles in developing and controlling all of these activities through licensing, subsidies, granting monopolies, encouraging immigration, oversight, and direct participation.

Trade operated on four levels: internal, Baltic, European, and global. Internal was the most limited and the most restricted. Baltic and European commerce were inseparably linked, and the struggle for dominance in this sphere is one of the main themes of the period's history. To control the flow of salt, grains, timber, metals, and other products that flowed through the ports of the Baltic was to become rich. Denmark, Sweden, Russia, the Dutch Netherlands, Poland, and England were some of the players in this competition. Sweden never actually gained control of the trade, but it did control many of the ports that fed it from around 1630 to 1720. In the global economies of the early modern period, Sweden was a minor actor. Hopes of gaining a place in the Africa trade lasted only through the 1650s, when Sweden maintained a fort at Cape Coast (Ghana). The New Sweden colony, established along the banks of the Delaware River in 1638 on the basis of hopes for a lucrative trade in furs and tobacco, was never profitable. The Swedish East India Company (17311813) was more successful.

Connected to the economic and political developments of the period was a gradual trend toward urbanization. Most important was Stockholm. Founded in the mid-thirteenth century, its population grew from around 6,000 in 1500 to nearly 90,000 in 1800. In addition to serving as the capital, it was a center for manufacturing and the country's most important trade port. From the early seventeenth century, Göteborg developed as an important commercial center. A conscious policy of urban development was pursued, and twenty-eight new towns were founded in Sweden (and Finland) in the seventeenth century.


Sweden's cultural and intellectual life was influenced by growing ties with Europe, a conservative Lutheran church, and the country's relative poverty for much of the early modern period. In 1500 Sweden was on the fringes of Europe. Except for churches and a network of medieval royal castles, architecture was at best rustic. Schools were few, and the country's one university at Uppsala, founded in 1477, virtually ceased operation in the late sixteenth century.

Although Sweden never became a leader in cultural or intellectual activity, much of this backwardness faded over the course of the early modern period, and the country produced a number of important scholars, writers, and artists, especially in the eighteenth century. Court life was modeled on European standards from Gustav I on, and was especially vibrant under Christina during the 1640s and Gustav III from 1772 to 1792. Royal palaces copied continental styles. Drottningholm was built between 1665 and 1703. Fire destroyed the centuries-old Three Crowns Castle in Stockholm in 1697, and work began almost immediately on a new rococo palace designed by Nicodemus Tessin the Younger. During the middle decades of the seventeenth century, Sweden's aristocracy built and furnished fine city and country residences in European styles. Court painters like David Klöcker (ennobled Ehrenstrahl) produced superb portraits from around 1650; and the eighteenth century saw the work of such masters as C. G. Pilo, Pehr Hilleström, and the sculptor J. H. Sergel.

From the early seventeenth century, education received greater attention. New secondary schools (gymnasia), an academy at Åbo; (1640), and new universities at Dorpat (1632) and Lund (1668) were established. Uppsala University received more regular support. It was home to Olof Rudbeck the Elder (16301702), a co-discoverer of the lymphatic system and an exponent of Gothicism, an interpretation of Sweden's history that tied it to ancient biblical tribes and linked the country's monarchs to Noah's son Magog. These ideas were first expressed in the fifteenth century and developed most fully in Johannes Magnus's Historia de Omnibus Gothorum Sveonumque Regibus from 1554. Placing Sweden at the center of Western cultural development and regarding it as the site of the lost city of Atlantis, Gothicism was used to legitimize both the Swedish nation and the monarchy. In the eighteenth century Sweden produced a number of distinguished scientists including the botanist Carl Linnaeus (Linnaeus; 17071778), the physicist and mathematician Anders Celsius (17011744), and the multitalented mystic Emanuel Swedenborg (16881772).

See also Charles X Gustav (Sweden) ; Charles XII (Sweden) ; Christina (Sweden) ; Denmark ; Gustavus II Adolphus (Sweden) ; Kalmar, Union of ; Linnaeus, Carl ; Lutheranism ; Northern Wars ; Oxenstierna, Axel ; Stockholm ; Swedenborgianism ; Swedish Literature and Language ; Thirty Years' War (16181648) ; Vasa Dynasty (Sweden) .


Barton, H. Arnold. Northern Arcadia: Foreign Travelers in Scandinavia. 17651815. Carbondale, Ill., 1998.

Magnusson, Lars. An Economic History of Sweden. London and New York, 2000.

Nordstrom, Byron. A History of Sweden. Westport, Conn., 2002.

Oakley, Stewart. A Short History of Sweden. New York, 1966.

Scott, Franklin. Sweden: The Nation's History. Carbondale, Ill., 1988.

Important journals include Historisk tidskrift, 1881current; Scandinavian Economic History Review, 1953current; Scandinavian Journal of History, 1976current; Scandinavian Studies, 1917current.

The Internet offers many fine sites. Two good starting points are: and

Byron J. Nordstrom

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Toward the end of the nineteenth century, the Swedish writer August Strindberg, wrote several plays, novels, and short stories dealing in a pertinent fashion with religion and doubt, the relations between men and women, the father and his position in the family. He described the hypocrisy and the destructive forces, the unconscious motivations, the representations and specific conflicts of man at the turn of the century. In 1893 the name of his contemporary, Sigmund Freud, was mentioned in Sweden for the first time in a medical review, along with those of Josef Breuer, Pierre Janet, and Jean Martin Charcot. The article, dealing with traumatic neuroses, was written by Frithiof Lennmalm, a professor of nervous pathology.

Freud wrote On the History of the Psychoanalytic Movement in 1914. Nine years later, in 1923, he felt obliged to specify in a note: "At the present time the Scandinavian countries are still the least receptive."

Psychoanalysis was introduced to Sweden in a manner that was at least unique. The two pioneers, Emanuel af Geijerstam, installed in Göteborg from 1898 to 1928, and Poul Bjerre, who worked in Stockholm and its surroundings for almost half a century, shared a similar attitude: they were both interested in psychoanalysis but were keenly critical of it. Geijerstam, a researcher and psychotherapist, approved of the theses of Alfred Adler and Carl Gustav Jung, without however being hostile to psychoanalysis. He wrote about Freud in 1902 but, from 1916 until his death, he persistently stressed that "anagogic analysis" constituted a progression on Freudian psychoanalysis. And when Geijerstam went on a study trip it was not to Vienna but to Zurich.

Poul Bjerre met Freud in December 1910. At a conference of the Swedish medical association the following year he introduced a part of Freudian theory. He went on to translate and in 1924 to publish some articles by Freud. From the time of his first encounter with the founder of psychoanalysis, and particularly after 1912, he was convinced that his own work was more important. For Bjerre, Freud had become bogged down in a mechanistic science that specifically prevented him from understanding the scope of psychosynthesis. Thus, for thirty years Freud was represented in Sweden by two physicians specializing in nervous diseases, having different points of view, but who shared their refusal to take on board the totality of Freud's theory.

In the bulletins of the Swedish medical association we find criticism of Freud as early as 1910. The tone was set by two eminent physicians, Bror Gadelius (1862-1938) and Olof Kinberg (1873-1960). Gadelius, a psychiatrist, adopted the following stance: "Freud has overestimated the importance of sexuality; this is because of the nature of his clientele who, in a cosmopolitan city like Vienna, have a particular propensity for exaggeration. We cannot never overstress the fact that alongside the sexual complexeswhose role in the appearance of hysteria I in no way wish to underestimatethere exist other complexes charged with affect that can give birth to neuroses and hysteria, and how much these complexes go hand in hand with the "Ich Triebe [ego-instincts]." However, this point of view did not prevent Gadelius from acknowledging the merits of Freud's theory. In his important work on psychiatry, Det mänskliga Själsivet (The Human Soul), he specifically wrote that "in recent years, largely thanks to Freud and his school, much more attention has been accorded than previously to the importance of the sexual instinct in psychic life." To sum up, Giejerstam and Bjerre, who are generally considered to have introduced psychoanalysis to Sweden, and Gadelius, the greatest critic and opponent of the discipline, adopted a similar position.

Simultaneous with the growing interest in psychoanalysis in Sweden at the end of the 1920s, we find the increasing hostility of several influential physicians and academics. This resistance had already made its appearance in 1911 when Poul Bjerre tried to publish his conference, "The Psychoanalytic Method," in which he gave the most positive presentation of psychoanalysis and met with what he considered to be unjustified criticism. Presentations delivered within the framework of the Swedish medical association were normally published in the review Hygiea. Bjerre's was refused on the pretext that it was too long. In addition, Gadelius indulged in a methodical criticism of psychoanalysis in his work Tro och helbrägdagörelse. Jämte en kritisk studie av psykoanalysen (Faith and Healing. A Critical Study of Psychoanalysis), published in 1934.

The review Clarté, which had socialist leanings, was a branch of the international Clarté movement and acted as a platform for psychoanalysis. In the latter half of the twenties it published the texts of the Swedish pioneers of Freudianism. A few intellectuals believed that psychoanalysis could perhaps be used to formulate a radical theory of society. Interest in psychoanalysis was essentially linked to this aspect and was marked by its pragmatism. In the thirties literary circles little by little began to take an interest in psychoanalysis. This interest took many forms, including the creation of the review Spektrum, which published modernist poetry and translations of psychoanalysts like Anna Freud, Erich Fromm, and Wilhelm Reich. One of the Swedish pioneers, Per Henrik Törngren, who went into analysis with Ludwig Jekels a few years later, was part of the editing committee and published his own texts in the review. During this same period Sweden saw the publication of considerable extracts from The Interpretation of Dreams, as well as, in their entirety, The Future of an Illusion and Civilization and Its Discontents.

In August 1931 the pioneers of psychoanalysis in the Scandinavian countries met to discuss for the first time the formation of a psychoanalytic society. Among the participants were Sigurd Naesgaard, a Dane; Harald Schjelderup, a Norwegian; Vriö Kulovesi, a Finn, and Alfhild Tamm, a Swede. Tamm, who organized the meeting, had international experience and had been a member since 1926 of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society. The Scandinavian group then split into two societies, a Danish-Norwegian society and a Finnish-Swedish society, for which she became the spokes-person. Tamm was the first woman psychiatrist in Sweden. Her theoretical work was of minimal importance. She invoked the tradition of the Enlightenment to combat prejudice with regard to masturbation and sought to understand the mechanisms of aphasia. Tamm was too much on her own for the first ten years to enable the society to become influential and the activities of the pioneers of psychoanalysis were somewhat limited.

The early thirties saw the arrival in Scandinavian countries of psychoanalysts who had been trained in Central Europe, particularly Vienna and Berlin. The Viennese Ludwig Jekels, a student of Freud's, settled in Sweden from 1934 to 1937. He saw his work as a training analyst in Stockholm as a difficult and thankless task and he finally left Sweden with the feeling that he had failed in his mission. As was common at the time, some Nordic pioneers made the journey to Vienna, Berlin, or Zurich to be analyzed by August Aichhorn, Helene Deutsch, Paul Federn, Eduard Hitschmann, Oskar Pfister, or Harald Schultz-Hencke.

The Nordic psychoanalysts were looking for more competent colleagues than themselves who would be capable of training them, and from 1926 onward they began to organize themselves along the lines of the model fixed by the International Psychoanalytic Association (IPA). Scandinavian countries simultaneously witnessed the creation of new psychotherapy societies based on an eclectic concept of psychotherapy and the exclusion of some of the bases of psychoanalysis, such as the theory of infantile sexuality and dream theory.

In 1932 Norway saw the formation of the Nordisk Psykoanalytisk Samfund (Nordic Psychoanalytic Society) under the presidency of Alfhild Tamm with, among its most notable members, Poul Bjerre and Sugurd Naesgaard. In Denmark the Psykoanalytisk Samfund was founded in December 1933, with Swedish Poul Bjerre, Danish Sigurd Naesgaard, and Norwegian Irgens Stromme playing the leading roles.

During World War II the Dutch psychoanalyst René de Moncy, a personal friend of Freud, went to live in Sweden as a result of his encounter in Vienna with the Jewish Swedish psychoanalyst Vera Palmstierna, who had been in analysis with Freud. The couple settled in Stockholm. René de Moncy had played a major role in the Dutch Society and was to play an equally important role in Sweden during the eight years that he lived there. He was psychoanalyst to Ola Andersson (1919-1990) and the Hungarian psychologist Lajos Székely (1904-1995) who was practicing in Sweden. Székely was a Jewishémigré who had arrived in 1944 with his wife Edith, a physician and psychoanalyst. He had trained as an analyst firstly in Hungary, then in Germany and Holland during the 1930s, and finally in Sweden. He was to play a major role in the 1950s by providing analytic training for Swedish physicians and psychologists. He wrote on a variety of subjects, among them the links between the unconscious and creativity. Székely spoke several languages and published articles in English, French, Swedish, German, and Hungarian.

Stefi Pedersen (1908-1980) began her analytic training in the Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute. She was first analyzed by Otto Fenichel in Berlin and later joined him in Oslo. In Swedenwhere she arrived with a group of Jewish children after a stay in Norwayshe worked in the Swedish Psychoanalytic Society (Svenska Psykoanalytiska Föreringen). She did a second analysis, this time as trainee, with René de Monchy. Her status as a member of the Society did not prevent her from adopting an independent and critical position. She was rather radical in her thinking and was attracted by Alexander Mitscherlich's theses. She wrote articles on vulnerability and the effects of the Nazi terror on psychoanalysts and clinical work. She published texts in English, German, Norwegian, and Swedish.

In August 1943, Tore Ekman (1887-1971) returned to Sweden after practicing for nearly twenty years in Berlin and Leipzig, as well as working as "Lektor " in Leipzig University. He trained under Therese Benedek, a close friend of Alfhild Tamm, and went on to play a role of capital importance in the Swedish Psychoanalytic Society, although he published very little. The psychoanalyst and theorist of science, Carl Lesche (1920-1993), a Finnishémigré in Sweden in the early 1950s, was also to occupy an important position in the Swedish Society between the 1960s and the 1980s. Among his influences were philosophers Wilhelm Dilthey, Edmund Husserl, and Karl-Otto Apel. The question of the classification of psychoanalysis was to take on a new dimension with him. He claimed that it was essential to define what made psychoanalysis more of a hermeneutic discipline than a natural science and to point out where it differed from psychotherapy. However, the influence of Lesche has not extended beyond the borders of Sweden.

Swedish psychoanalysts have done little research work and have made few important contributions to the history and theory of psychoanalysis. Ola Anders-son's thesis, "Freud before Freud. The Prehistory of Psychoanalysis" (1962) constitutes a remarkable exception, as does academic Gunnar Brandell's more substantial essay, "Freud a Child of his Century" (1961). Ola Andersson wrote an in-depth study of the context in the history of ideas that saw the birth and evolution of Freud's thinking up to 1896, the time when he formulated the concept of psychoanalysis. Andersson stressed the importance of the influence of Herbart on Freud and conducted original research into the true identity of Emmy von N. Andersson and Brandell. Both took part in Uppsala University seminars conducted by Wilhelm Sjöstrand, a pedagogue and history enthusiast who organized seminars at the end of the 1950s, during the time Michel Foucault was teaching at this university.

Few psychoanalysts in Sweden have taken an interest in philosophy, the theory of science, or the history of ideas, just as few Swedish philosophers and academics have studied Freudian theory, with one exception: researchers in the psychology department of Lund University have taken an interest in psychoanalysis since the 1940s.

The Swedish Psychoanalytic Society now numbers more than one hundred and ninety members and there is ever growing interest in its training program. Toward the middle of the 1960s, voices were nevertheless raised in criticism of this training. In 1963 one of the society's psychoanalysts, Margit Norell, secretary to the training group, founded a work group with some of the analysands. This work resulted in 1968 in the formal creation of the Swedish Society for Holistic Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis (SSHPP), which joined the International Federation of Psychoanalytic Societies (IFPS) in 1972. The SSHPP was initially supported by neo-Freudians, Erich Fromm, Frieda Fromm-Reichmann, and Harry Stack Sullivan. Harold Kelman, an American closely allied with Karen Horney, greatly contributed to its development. He organized seminars and was thesis director for many teachers. Toward the end of the 1970s, the SSHPP took an increasing interest in the theory of object relations, particularly in the work of theoreticians like Melanie Klein, Ronald Fairbairn, Donald Winnicott, and even Wilfred Bion. This same period saw intensified relations between the Swedish Psychoanalytic Society and the Swedish Society for Holistic Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis, which began to study Freud more than ever. In May 1992 it was decided in agreement with the majority of the members to request affiliation with the IPA. Since then the IPA has never ceased to grow and it now numbers about seventy-five members.

In the 1970s, Swedes began to take an interest in Jacques Lacan and French psychoanalysis. This interest coincided with the publication in Swedish of the works of the French structuralists. A first translation of Lacan's work appeared, entitledÉcrits, but containing less than 15 percent of the French edition ofÉcrits, and was followed by pirate publications of other translations of texts by Lacan. Inspired by Lacan's work, a few rare researchers in human sciences were seduced by the idea of establishing links between psychoanalysis and modern linguistics. For a short period during the 1970s and 1980s, psychoanalysts from South America and the United States trained psychologists and physicians at Göteborg. In 1974 the Göteborg Institute for Psychotherapy (Göteborg Psykoterapi Institut) was founded, its founders, the Argentinean psychoanalysts Angel and Dora Fiasché, having been trained in their own country by the IPA. Dora Fiasché is a philosopher and still a member of the IPA. Angel Fiasché is a physician and has since left the IPA. The Fiaschés, who consider themselves to be socialists, are close to Kleinian psychoanalysis in terms of theory. They have worked with, among others, León Grinberg, Maria Langer, and Enrique Pichon-Rivière. They regularly return to Göte-borg and several members of the Institute have been to Buenos Aires for professional reasons. In terms of its orientation the Göteborg Institute for Psychotherapy is eclectic and pragmatic and adopts a radical position on social questions. It now has more than forty members. Just as in Göteborg, the interest in the theoretical works of Melanie Klein has also increased elsewhere.

In Sweden the dawn of the twenty-first century has seen renewed criticism of psychoanalysis, coming in equal parts from academic psychology and biological psychiatry. This has not prevented psychoanalysts and researchers from all quarters from taking part in a joint project: the publication in Swedish by a major publishing house of the complete works of Sigmund Freud. In 2002, the review Psykoanalytisk tid/Skrifr began publication in Göteborg; it is mainly orientated toward French psychoanalysis and thought.

Per Magnus Johansson, David Titelman


Gadelius, Bror. (1934). Tro och helbrägdagörelse jämte en kritisk studie av psykoanalysen. Stockholm: Hugo Gebers.

Johansson, Per Magnus. (1999). Freuds psykoanalys, utgângspunkter/arvtagare i Sverige. Göteborg: Daïdalos.

(2003). Freuds psykoanalys, arvtagare i Sverige. Göte-borg: Daïdalos.

Luttenberger, Franz. (1989). Freud i Sverige. Stockholm: Carlsson Bokförlag.

Törngren, Pehr Henrik. (1936). Striden om Freud. Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag.

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Sweden, Swed. Sverige, officially Kingdom of Sweden, constitutional monarchy (2005 est. pop. 9,002,000), 173,648 sq mi (449,750 sq km), N Europe, occupying the eastern part of the Scandinavian peninsula. It borders on Norway in the west, on Finland in the northeast, on the Gulf of Bothnia in the east, on the Baltic Sea in the south, and on the Øresund (The Sound), the Kattegat, and the Skagerrak in the southwest. The country includes several islands, notably Gotland and Öland, in the Baltic. Stockholm is Sweden's capital and largest city.

Land and People

Sweden falls into two main geographical regions: the north (Norrland), comprising about two thirds of the country, which is mountainous (except for a narrow strip of lowland along the Gulf of Bothnia); and the south (Svealand and Götaland), which is mostly low-lying and where most of the population lives. About 65% of Sweden's land area is forested, and less than 10% is arable. The country has several large rivers, which generally flow in a southeastward direction; these include the Götaälv, the Dalälven, the Indalsälven, the Ångermanälven, the Umeälv, the Skellefteälven, the Luleälv, and the Torneälv. There are also a number of large lakes, including lakes Vänern, Vättern, Mälaren, Storsjön, Hjälmaren, Siljan, and Uddjaur. The highest point in Sweden is Kebnekaise (6,965 ft/2,123 m), located in the Kölen (Kjölen) Mts. in Lapland.

The great majority of the nation's population speaks Swedish and is descended from Scandinavian tribes (see Germans); there is a sizable Finnish-speaking minority and a small Sami-speaking (Lapp) minority. About 12% of the population is foreign born. Most Swedes belong to the Evangelical Lutheran Church; the metropolitan see is at Uppsala. It was long the official state church, but it was disestablished in 2000. The Nobel Prizes (except the Peace Prize) are awarded annually in Sweden. Social welfare legislation has long been advanced and comprehensive, providing for pensions, maternity benefits, health insurance, and allowances for all children.


Sweden is a highly industrialized country and has one of the highest living standards in the world. Since 1940 there has been a great movement of workers from farms to cities; nevertheless, agricultural output has increased considerably with the application of scientific farming methods. In 2006 industry contributed about 28% of the annual national income and agriculture about 1%. Transportation, communication, and trade are also important. Farming is concentrated in the southern part of the country; the leading commodities produced are dairy products, grain (including fodder crops), sugar beets, and potatoes. Large numbers of poultry, hogs, and cattle are raised.

Sweden is one of the world's leading producers of iron ore; important mines are at Kiruna and Gällivare. Copper, lead, and zinc ores and pyrite are also extracted. The country's chief industrial centers are Stockholm, Göteborg, Malmö, Uppsala, Västerås, Helsingborg, and Norrköping. Food processing is important and the leading manufactures include iron and steel, machinery, precision equipment, forest products, chemicals, and motor vehicles. Sweden is known for its decorative and folk arts, fine glassware (made especially at Orrefors), and high-quality steel cutlery and blades. Much hydroelectric power is generated. The country's beautiful scenery and handsome towns and cities attract large numbers of tourists.

Sweden carries on a large foreign trade, and the value of exports usually slightly exceeds that of imports. The chief exports are machinery, motor vehicles, paper goods, pulp and wood, iron and steel products, and chemicals.The main imports are machinery, petroleum and petroleum products, chemicals, motor vehicles, iron and steel, foodstuffs, and clothing. The principal trade partners are Germany, Norway, Denmark, Great Britain, and Finland.


Sweden is a constitutional monarchy governed under the constitution of 1975, which replaced that of 1809. The hereditary monarch is the head of state but has little power. The prime minister, who is the head of government, is elected by the Parliament. Legislative power is vested in the unicameral Parliament or Riksdag, whose 349 members are elected by a system of proportional representation to four-year terms. The country's executive is the cabinet, headed by the prime minister, which must have the confidence of the Riksdag. Public administration is to a large extent decentralized, so that elected county and municipal governments play a major role in running the country. Administratively, Sweden is divided into 21 counties.


Origins of Sweden

In early historic times, Svealand was inhabited by the Svear (mentioned as the Suiones by Tacitus in the late 1st cent. AD). They engaged in wars with their southern neighbors, who inhabited Götaland and who according to an unproved tradition were the ancestors of the Goths. By the 6th cent. AD the Svear had conquered the Götar, with whom they merged. The early Swedes were combined and confused with other Scandinavians (e.g., the piratical Vikings and Norsemen). The Swedes alone, known as Varangians in Russia, extended (10th cent.) their influence to the Black Sea. The Swedish kings warred for centuries with their Danish and Norwegian neighbors.

St. Ansgar introduced Christianity c.829, but paganism was fully eradicated only in the 12th cent. by Eric IX, who also conquered Finland. The royal authority was weakened before the 13th cent. by the rise of an independent feudal class. The Swedish cities also began to acquire wide rights at that time and were strongly influenced by German merchants of the Hanseatic League, active especially at Visby. In 1319, Sweden and Norway were united under Magnus VII, and in 1397 Queen Margaret I effected the personal union of Sweden, Norway, and Denmark through the Kalmar Union.

However, Margaret's successors, whose rule was centered in Denmark, were unable to control the Swedes. Real power was held for long periods by regents (notably those of the Sture family) chosen by the Swedish diet. Christian II, who asserted his claim to Sweden by force of arms, ordered a massacre (1520) of Swedish nobles at Stockholm. This "Stockholm Blood Bath" stirred the Swedes to new resistance; at Strängnäs, in 1523, they made Gustavus Vasa their king as Gustavus I.

Growth of the Swedish State

The founder of the modern Swedish state, Gustavus eliminated the influence of the Hanseatic League in Sweden, strengthened the central authority, made (1544) the kingship hereditary in the Vasa dynasty, and made Lutheranism the state religion. However, he was unable to regain the southern provinces, held by Denmark. His successor, Eric XIV (reigned 1560–68), began the Swedish conquest of Livonia by taking (1561) its northern section (Estonia).

Swedish interests in E Europe were further enhanced by the marriage of John III (reigned 1569–92), Eric's successor, to the sister of Sigismund II of Poland. Their son, Sigismund III of Poland, was a Roman Catholic; his accession (1592) to the Swedish throne was deeply resented by the Protestant Swedes. He was deposed in 1599, and his uncle became regent and then king of Sweden as Charles IX (reigned 1607–11).

Charles's son, Gustavus II (Gustavus Adolphus; reigned 1611–32), made Sweden a great European power. Through a war with Russia, he acquired (1617) Ingermanland and Karelia; from Poland he took nearly all of Livonia. By his victories at Breitenfeld (1631) and Lützen (1632) in the Thirty Years War, Gustavus made Sweden the dominant Protestant power of continental Europe. Axel Oxenstierna, appointed chancellor by Gustavus in 1612, was highly influential during Gustavus's reign and the first half of the reign of Queen Christina (1632–54).

In the 17th cent. Swedish colonial aspirations in North America (see New Sweden) proved short-lived. The Peace of Westphalia (1648; see Westphalia, Peace of), which ended the Thirty Years War, gave W Pomerania, Wismar, and the archbishopric of Bremen to Sweden, making the Swedish kings princes of the Holy Roman Empire. Charles X, who became king on the abdication (1654) of Christina, successfully led wars against Poland and Denmark. The southern provinces of Sweden were definitively recovered from Denmark in 1660. Under Charles XI (reigned 1660–97), Sweden became an absolute monarchy, and the great nobles lost their independence.

In the Northern War (1700–1721), which broke out shortly after the accession of Charles XII (reigned 1697–1718), Sweden was crushed after gaining its greatest military triumphs (e.g., at Narva and in Livonia). Under the treaties of Stockholm (1720) and Nystad (1721), Sweden ceded the archbishopric of Bremen to Hanover, part of Pomerania to Prussia, and Livonia, Ingermanland, and Karelia to Russia. Internally, Sweden was torn in the 18th cent. by political intrigue and civil discord. Ulrica Eleonora (d.1741) succeeded her brother, Charles XII, in 1718, but abdicated (1720) in favor of her husband, Frederick I (d. 1751), a prince of Hesse-Kassel.

The constitution of 1720 gave increased powers to the Riksdag (diet) and the political scene was dominated (1738–65) by the faction known as the Hats, who favored an aggressive anti-Russian policy in alliance with France and who represented the nobility and the bureaucracy. They were successfully challenged in 1765 by the Caps, who sought peaceful relations with Russia and who represented the lesser estates. In 1751 the house of Oldenburg-Holstein-Gottorp gained the Swedish throne when Adolphus Frederick became king. His son, Gustavus III (reigned 1771–92), restored absolutism in 1772 but was later assassinated by a conspiracy of nobles. Gustavus IV (reigned 1792–1809), a despotic ruler, involved Sweden in war with Napoleon I and then (1806–9) with Russia. A coup (1809) placed his uncle, Charles XIII, on the throne, and later in the same year Sweden was forced to cede Finland to Russia.

A constitutional monarchy was established by the constitution of 1809, which, although modified considerably (e.g., in 1866 and 1969), remained in effect until Jan. 1, 1975. From 1810, Swedish affairs were in the hands of Charles's adopted heir, Marshal Bernadotte (later Charles XIV). Sweden again joined the allies against Napoleon in 1813; this was the last war in which Sweden has participated. The Congress of Vienna compensated (1814) Sweden for its loss of Pomerania and Finland with Norway, which remained a separate kingdom in personal union with Sweden until 1905.

Sweden since 1814

The history of 19th-century Sweden, under Charles XIV (reigned 1818–44), Oscar I (1844–59), Charles XV (1859–72), and Oscar II (1872–1907), was one of progressive liberalization in government and of industrial development. Freedom of the press (1844) and internal free trade (1864) were established, and the suffrage bill of 1865 enfranchised the middle class. The accelerated industrial development of the late 19th cent. was accompanied by the rise of the Social Democratic party, which dominated Swedish politics after 1920. From 1870 to 1914 about 1.5 million Swedes emigrated to the United States, mostly to the Midwest.

Relations with Norway were strained throughout the 19th cent., and in 1905 the union of Norway and Sweden was peacefully terminated. Under Gustavus V (reigned 1907–50), Sweden averted involvement in World War I and II, making armed neutrality the basis of its foreign policy, and, except for the early 1920s and early 1930s, enjoyed economic prosperity. Universal taxpayer suffrage was introduced in 1907, and in 1910 a workers' compensation insurance law began the long series of Swedish welfare legislation. Sweden entered the United Nations in 1946, and Dag Hammarskjöld, a Swedish diplomat, was secretary-general of the organization from 1953 until his death in 1961. In 1950, Gustavus VI ascended the throne; he was succeeded in 1973 by Charles XVI Gustavus. Sweden refused to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1949 in order not to compromise its neutrality, and for similar reasons withdrew its first application for full membership in the European Community in 1971.

The Social Democrats, led by Tage Erlander from 1946 to 1969 and thereafter by Olof Palme, controlled the government after 1945, usually at the head of coalition governments. Considerable new social welfare legislation was passed, but from the mid-1960s Swedish economic growth slowed, and there were sizable increases in unemployment and in the rate of inflation in the early 1970s. Palme was replaced in 1976 by Thorbjörn Fälldin, a Center party member who led a coalition that ended 44 years of domination by the Social Democrats.

The period was marked by a heated national debate over nuclear power. Fälldin resigned in 1978 when he was forced to compromise on his decision to halt the building of nuclear power plants. Ola Ullsten became prime minister briefly, but Fälldin was returned to power after a general election in 1979. A 1980 referendum called for the phasing out of nuclear power, but in the subsequent decades most nuclear power plants remained in operation, and in 2010 legislation allowed for the issuing of permits for the construction of new nuclear power plants. In 1982 the Social Democrats resumed power under the leadership of Olof Palme, who was assassinated by an unidentified gunman in 1986. Palme was succeeded by Ingvar Carlsson. In 1991 the Social Democrats lost power and Carl Bildt, a Conservative, became prime minister; his government enacted austerity measures.

Carlsson and the Social Democrats were returned to power in the 1994 elections. Sweden joined the European Union in 1995. Carlsson resigned as prime minister in 1996 and was succeeded by his finance minister, Göran Persson, who continued in office following the 1998 elections, despite a setback for the Social Democrats. In 2002, Swedish voters again returned the Social Democrats to power, this time with an increased percentage of the vote. Sweden, which deregulated many sectors of its economy while retaining its welfare state, has generally experienced steady growth since the mid-1990s.

A center-right coalition, led by the Moderate party, defeated the Social Democrats in Sept., 2006. Fredrik Reinfeldt, leader of the Moderates, became prime minister of a four-party coalition in October. In the Sept., 2010, elections the ruling coalition won the largest bloc of seats but fell short of a majority. Four years later the Social Democrats won a plurality and formed a minority government with the Greens; Stefan Löfven became prime minister. In Dec., 2014, however, Löfven called for new elections after the government lost a budget vote, but the government and center-right opposition soon reached a budget deal.


See R. N. Bain, Charles XII and the Collapse of the Swedish Empire, 1682–1719 (1895, repr. 1969); C. J. Hallendorf and Adolf Schüch, History of Sweden (1929, repr. 1970); Wilfrid Fleisher, Sweden, The Welfare State (1956, repr. 1973); Ingvar Andersson, A History of Sweden (tr. 1968, repr. 1975); Kurt Samuelsson, From Great Power to Welfare State (1968); R. F. Tomasson, Sweden: Prototype of Modern Society (1970); M. D. Hancock, Sweden: The Politics of Post Industrial Change (1972); Vilhelm Moberg, A History of the Swedish People (2 vol., tr. 1972 and 1974); Michael Roberts, The Age of Liberty: Sweden 1719–1772 (1985); L. B. Sather and Alan Swanson, Sweden (1987); B. P. Bosworth and A. M. Rivlin, ed., The Swedish Economy (1987); David Popenoe, Disturbing the Nest: Sweden and the Decline of Families in Modern Society (1988); Ebba Dohlman, National Welfare and Economic Interdependence: The Case of Sweden's Foreign Trade Policy (1989).

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Official name: Kingdom of Sweden

Area: 449,964 square kilometers (173,732 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Kebnekaise (2,111 meters/6,926 feet)

Lowest point on land: Sea level

Hemispheres: Northern and Eastern

Time zone: 1 p.m. = noon GMT

Longest distances: 1,574 kilometers (978 miles) from north to south, 499 kilometers (310 miles) from east to west

Land boundaries: 2,205 kilometers (1,370 miles) total boundary length; Finland 586 kilometers (364 miles); Norway 1,619 kilometers (1,006 miles)

Coastline: 3,218 kilometers (2,000 miles)

Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)


Sweden is located on the Scandinavian Peninsula of northern Europe, between the countries of Norway and Finland. With a total area of about 449,964 square kilometers (173,732 square miles), the country is slightly larger than the state of California. Sweden is administratively divided into twenty-one counties.


Sweden has no outside territories or dependencies.


Because of the influence of the ocean current known as the North Atlantic Drift and the prevailing air currents, Sweden's average temperatures are warmer than similar northern countries that lie further inland. In winter, the average temperature in southern Sweden is -3°C (26°F). In summer, the average temperature there is 18°C (64°F). Norrland (northern Sweden) is much colder, with a winter season that extends for up to eight months, with snow remaining on the ground for about six months.

Annual rainfall averages 61 centimeters (24 inches). The western part of the country along the border with Norway experiences the country's heaviest precipitation.


The largest of the Scandinavian countries and the fourth-largest country in Europe, Sweden is one of the countries located farthest from the equator. It extends from north to south at roughly the same latitude as Alaska, with about 15 percent of its total area situated north of the Arctic Circle.

The most notable of Sweden's geographical features is its length, which the Swedes speak of as vart avlanga land (our long, drawn-out land). It shares this and many other features with its western twin in Scandinavia, Norway, but Sweden is a land of lower altitudes and less dissected relief than Norway.

Four topographical divisions can be discerned in the country, although they are of unequal size. The largest is Norrland, the northern three-fifths of Sweden. Characterized by a landscape of hills and mountains, forests, and large river valleys, it stretches roughly from the lower reaches of the Dal River northward. Svealand, or central Sweden, constitutes the second region. It is made up of lowlands dotted with thousands of lakes. Småland in the south is the third region. It is an area of forested hills. The fourth region is in the southernmost part of the country and is known as Skåne (Scania). Topographically, it is a continuation of the fertile plains of Denmark and northern Germany.

Sweden is located on the Eurasian Tectonic Plate.


Seacoast and Undersea Features

The east and south coasts of Sweden lie on the Baltic Sea, which is linked to the North Sea by the narrow and shallow straits of the Kattegat and the Skagerrak. The Gulf of Bothnia, between Sweden and Finland, is the northern-most extension of the Baltic Sea. All of these bodies of water are considered to be extensions of the Atlantic Ocean.

Sea Inlets and Straits

The Kattegat lies along the southwest shore of Sweden. As it reaches the northernmost extent of Denmark, the Kattegat flows into the Skagerrak Strait, a triangular body of water that lies between Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. The Kattegat and Skagerrak are considered part of the North Sea. The channel of water separating Denmark and Sweden and linking the Kattegat Strait with the Baltic Sea is the Öresund Strait.

Islands and Archipelagos

Like other Scandinavian countries, Sweden has many islands. The archipelago of Stockholm shows the most intense concentration of islands, the outermost of which are separated from their Finnish counterparts by the Åland Sea. In contrast, the western coast archipelago of Bohusian is a skerry (rocky reef) zone where the ice, waves, and winds have left the skerries bald in appearance.

Of all the Swedish islands, Gotland (3,173 square kilometers/1,225 square miles) is the largest and occupies a special and central place. Although it has a plateau appearance and is skirted with limestone cliffs, it has some of the finest beaches in the Baltic. Its principal town is Visby. Öland Island, not far off of Sweden's southeastern coast, is the second-largest island at 1,344 square kilometers (519 square miles).

Coastal Features

The Bothnian coastal plain merges almost imperceptibly into the sea. Both the littoral (the coastal region of the ocean) and estuaries are crowded with islands. The Bothnian coast may be divided into lower, middle, and upper sections; the middle section extends from Örnsköldsvik to Skellefteå. The area around Örnsköldsvik is designated as the High Coast. It is an UNESCO World Heritage site because of its ongoing geological process of uplift. After the ice retreated from Sweden 9,600 years ago, geologists believe the land was about 285 meters (940 feet) lower than it is today. In some areas, the land is rising as much as 1 meter (3 feet) per century.


Sweden has nearly one hundred thousand lakes. They are found throughout the country, but central Sweden in particular is a scatter zone of lakes and plains. The four largest lakes in the country are found here: Vänern, Vättern, Hjälmaren, and Mälaren. Vänern (3,593 square kilometers/1,387 square miles) and Vättern (1911 square kilometers/738 square miles) are among the four largest lakes in Europe. Vänern has an outlet to the west by way of the Göta River. It claims Sweden's largest catchment area. Lake Mälaren (1,140 square kilometers/440 square miles) lies only about 0.6 meters (2 feet) above the average level of the Baltic Sea. The capital city of Stockholm is located along the strait that connects the lake to the sea. Archaeological evidence suggests that this lake and plains region was the core of early Swedish settlements.

The depressions of the Norrland region are filled by lakes, most of which lie somewhat more than 305 meters (1,000 feet) above the level of the Baltic. The largest of these, located in the Western Highlands, are the Torn Träsk (317 square kilometers/122 square miles) in the north, the Storsjön (456 square kilometers/ 176 square miles) in the south, and between them, the interconnected trio of Hornavan, Uddjaur, and Storavan (660 square kilometers/ 255 square miles).

The largest lake in southern Sweden, lying at 142 meters (469 feet) above sea level with a depth of 37 meters (111 feet), is Lake Bolmen (184 square kilometers/71 square miles).


The rivers flowing in Norrland (northern Sweden) include the Torne, the Lule, the Skellefte, the Göta, the Ume (and its tributary, the Vindel), the Ångerman, the Ljungan, and the Dal. All flow generally southeast from the high elevations along the border with Norway until they empty into the Gulf of Bothnia. Waterfalls and rapids punctuate the rivers. The Torne and its tributaries form the border with Finland. The Göta River cuts through rocky wilderness into the lowlands of Svealand. The Trollhättan Falls (33 meters/108 feet) on the Göta River are indicative of the change in level between Vänern and the lowlands along the Skagerrak in the west. For decades, lumber-jacks have used The Klar, which flows south from Norway to Lake Vänern, to floati harvested logs downstream; this river also is a favorite spot for recreational rafting.

The rivers flowing in the southern and western part of the country are shorter than those in the north. They include the Viskan, Ätran, Nissan, and Lagan, all well-known for their abundant salmon.


There are no desert regions in Sweden.


Extensive plains such as Uppland (centered on Uppsala), Västmanland, and Narke are found throughout Svealand, the region dotted by numerous lakes. Väster-Götland and Öster-Götland (East and West Götland, not to be confused with the island of Gotland) are also grassland regions. South of Lake Vättern lie the faulted landscapes of Skäne, which, although fertile, and resembling the Danish plains across the Öresund, have areas of much more pronounced relief.


The Arctic Circle is the imaginary line that circles the globe at about 66.5°N latitude. Areas north of the circle experience the phenomenon known as midnight sun, which is a period of time when the sun is visible for twenty-four hours or longer. During the summer solstice (usually on June 21 or 22) the sun is visible on the horizon at midnight from all points along the Arctic Circle. As you move further north, seasons of sunshine get longer, so that at the North Pole, there are six months of continuous sunshine, from the vernal equinox (usually on March 21 or 22) until the autumnal equinox (usually on September 21 or 22). The Arctic Circle also serves as a boundary between the North Temperate and the North Frigid climate zones.

The extreme north of Norrland, north of the Arctic Circle, contains a region of wetland and tundra landscape, with large peat marshes covering 40 percent of the land.

Småland in southeastern Sweden is an area of lower highlands, with elevations generally less than 152 meters (500 feet). It separates the plains of Skåne in the southernmost part of the country from the more extensive lowlands of Svealand to the north.


Norrland, the northern region of Sweden, covers about 60 percent of Sweden's territory and includes the areas of highest elevation. The western highlands of Norrland follow the Norwegian frontier and rise to elevations of over 1,818 meters (6,000 feet), of which the highest is Kebnekaise at 2,111 meters (6,926 feet). The terrain slopes to the southeast, away from the Kölen (Kjølen) Mountains along the border with Norway, to the Gulf of Bothnia. The flow of rivers in this region have incised the surface and leveled much of the terrain to a plateau. There are a number of small icefields in the far northern reaches above 66° N latitude.


Sweden has a number of caves that are classified as neotectonic caves. Earthquakes or other shifts of the tectonic plates (particularly those that cause land elevations) formed these caves sometime within the last eight thousand to ten thousand years, which means they are relatively new land formations. Examples of these types of caves in Sweden are Torkulla Kyrka, Gillberga Gryt, and Bodagrottorna.

Korallgrottan (Coral Cave) is the longest cave in Sweden. This limestone (or karst) cave is located in the northern part of the province of Jämtland, close to the city of Ankarvattnet. The explored portion of the cave measures about 4,503 meters (14,774 feet) long with a depth of about 125 meters (408 feet). The unexplored part of the cave is estimated to be another 300 meters (984 feet) long. There is also a siphon connection (a water passage) between Korallgrottan and a second cave known as Klyftgrottan. This second area has not been explored completely either. Speleologists (scientists who study caves) believe that the total length of both caves is about 5,300 meters (17,388 feet). The cave, which was discovered in 1985, has not yet been opened to the public.


Scandinavia is the region in northern Europe that includes the Scandinavian Peninsula and its surrounding countries. The countries of Norway and Sweden are the only two countries located on the Scandinavian Peninsula. Denmark, Finland, and Iceland are included as part of Scandinavia because of common cultural links between the nations.

The Tykarpsgrottan (Tykarps Cave) is located near the southern point of Sweden in the town of Hässleholm, north and northeast of Malmö and Helsingborg. This cave was a limestone mine from about the twelfth century to the late-nineteenth century. The limestone, which is somewhat rare in the Scandinavian countries, was used both as building material and also to create mortar and white powder for paint coloring. The area around the cave is now a park-like recreation area. Visitors to the cave must be careful not to disturb any of the bats that now live in the cave. Of the fifteen different species of bats found in Scandinavia, seven different types can be found in the caving area. All of the bats are legally protected.

The copper mine in Falun, known as the Great Pit, and the entire mining town of Falun are listed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Mining there began from about the thirteenth century, and the area was considered to be one of the world's most important mining areas well into the seventeenth century.


Fulufjäll, a 35-kilometer- (22-mile-) long and 15-kilometer- (9-mile-) wide sandstone plateau in the center of the country near the Norwegian border, rises to a height of 1,000 meters (3,300 feet). Steep slopes and forested ravines surround it.


The Göta Canal, built in the early 1800s, is a 613-kilometer- (383-mile-) long waterway from Göteborg to Stockholm, formed by linking lakes and other natural waterways with a series of canals. The system never had any real economic purpose and is now used primarily by tourists. Several dozen locks compensate for the 90-meter (330-feet) difference in elevation between the two cities.

The Öresund Fixed Link is a bridge-and-tunnel combination that crosses the Öresund Strait to connect Malmö in Sweden to Copenhagen in Denmark. The 16-kilometer- (10-mile-) long link includes the longest single bridge in the world that carries both road and rail traffic (about 8 kilometers/5 miles) The link became fully operational in 2000. Before construction of the link, commuters could make the crossing only by ferry; the ride took about an hour. Motorists can now cross the bridge in about ten minutes.



Alderton, Mary. Sweden. London: A. & C. Black, 1995.

Frommer's Sweden. New York: Macmillan, 1999.

Williams, Brian. Guide to Sweden. Jackson, TN: Davidson, 2000.


Belt, Don. "Sweden." National Geographic, August 1993, 2-35.

Web Sites

Arctic Sweden: The Arctic Connection. (accessed April 17, 2003).

Höga Kusten (The High Coast). (accessed April 17, 2003).

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In 1649, Queen Christina banned witch trials, stating that witchcraft confessions of women were due to illusions or disorders of health. However, there was an extraordinary outbreak of witchcraft hysteria between 1669 and 1670 at Mora, in Dale-carlia, resulting in the burning of 85 individuals accused of transporting no fewer than 300 children by magical flights to a witches' sabbat on the island of Blockula.

On July 5, 1668, the pastor of Elfdale in Dalecarlia stated that Gertrude Svensen, aged 18, had been accused by Eric Eric-sen, aged 15, of stealing children for the devil. There followed similar charges. Then in May 1669, King Charles XI appointed a commission to look into the matter and attempt to redeem the accused by prayers rather than punishment or torture. However, the prayers resulted in mass hysteria among the 3,000 people who had assembled. The commissioners claimed to have discovered 70 adult witches, who were all burned, together with 15 children. Lesser sentences were given to 56 other children who were punished by having to run a gauntlet or be lashed with rods.

The witches were said to have carried the children on goats, sticks, and the backs of sleeping men, even flying through windows. One writer recorded that "being asked how they could go with their Bodies through Chimneys and broken panes of Glass, they said, that the Devil did first remove all that might hinder them in their flight, and so they had room enough to go." They assembled for their sabbat in a large meadow, where they feasted, danced, and performed diabolical rituals.

Commenting on the affair, Bishop Francis Hutchinson states in his book An Historical Essay Concerning Witchcraft (1718): "

Is it not plain that the people had frightened their children with so many tales, that they could not sleep without dreaming of the devil, and then made the poor women of the town confess what the children said of them."

Other witchcraft persecutions followed, and between 1674 and 1675, individuals were burned or beheaded in three parishes. There was also a witchcraft mania in Stockholm in following years, but when it was discovered that accusations were due to the malice or greed of young informers, Charles XI once again prohibited witchcraft prosecutions.

Spiritualism and Psychical Research

Spiritualism entered Sweden at the end of the nineteenth century and progressed slowly. In the decades following World War I, there was a general apathy, and in some areas a marked hostility to Spiritualism, fortune-telling, and psychic matters.

On March 14, 1931, a bill was presented to the Swedish Parliament with the intention both of regularizing mediumship and legitimizing psychical research. It did not succeed and Spiritualism was still actively discouraged. However, there was a revival of interest after World War II.

In spite of the hostility to psychical research, the Sällskapet för Parapsykologisk Forskning was established in Stockholm after World War II. It has carried out valuable experimental work. Gosta Rodhe, the president, has now been succeeded by Rolf Evjegärd. The former secretary, Eva Hellström, well known as a clairvoyant, was succeeded by Eric Uggla. The society maintains a good research library, has organized lectures and meetings, and has carried out research in psychometry and precognition. Another important experimenter was Haakon Forwald (1897-1978) of Ludvika, who in the 1950s began research in psychokinesis. More recently, a branch of the Churches' Fellowship for Psychic and Spiritualist Studies was organized, and may be reached c/o Mrs. Eva Lejam, St. Sodergatan 17, Lund.


Berger, Arthur S., and Joyce Berger. The Encyclopedia of Parapsychology and Psychical Research. New York: Paragon House, 1991.

Robbins, Rossell Hope. The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology. New York: Crown Publishers, 1959.

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Country statistics


449,960sq km (173,730sq mi) 8,909,128

capital (population):

Stockholm (754,948)


Constitutional monarchy

ethnic groups:

Swedish 91%, Finnish 3%


Swedish (official), Finnish


Lutheran 89%, Roman Catholic 2%


Swedish krona = 100 ore

Kingdom on the e half of the Scandinavian peninsula, n Europe. Sweden is the largest country in Scandinavia, both in terms of area and population. Most of n Sweden is mountainous; its highest point is Kebnekaise in Lapland, at 2117m (6946ft). The s lowlands contain two of Europe's largest lakes, Vänern and Vättern, and Sweden's largest cities: the capital, Stockholm, and Gothenburg.


The Gulf Stream moderates the climate of s Sweden. Further n, the climate becomes more severe: at the Arctic Circle, the temperature is below freezing for six months per year.


Forest and woodland cover c.68% of Sweden. Arable land makes up 7% and grass only 1%.

History and Politics

The earliest inhabitants of the area were the Svear, who merged with the Goths in the 6th century ad. Christianity was introduced in the 9th century. Swedes are thought to have been among the Vikings who plundered areas of s and e Europe between the 9th and 11th centuries. Swedes (Varangians), led by Rurik, also penetrated Russia as far as the Black Sea.

In 1319, Sweden and Norway united under Magnus VII. In 1389, the Danish Queen Margaret united Sweden, Denmark, and Norway in the Kalmar Union. Her successors failed to control Sweden, and in 1520 Gustavus Vasa led a successful rebellion. In 1523, he was crowned Gustavus I, king of an independent Sweden. Southern Sweden remained, however, under Danish control until 1660. Gustavus made the monarchy hereditary within the Vasa dynasty and Lutheranism became the state religion. John III's marriage to the King of Poland's sister strengthened Sweden's power. Their son, Sigismund III, a Roman Catholic, came to the throne in 1592, but was deposed (because of his religion) by Charles IX in 1599. Charles' son, Gustavus II, won territory in Russia and Poland, and further victories in the Thirty Years' War established Sweden as a great European power. Charles XII fought brilliant campaigns in Denmark, Poland, Saxony and Russia, but his eventual defeat in Russia (1709) seriously weakened Sweden. Internal friction marred the 18th century. Gustavus IV (r.1792–1809) took Sweden into the Napoleonic Wars. Charles XIII (r.1809–18) lost Finland to Russia in 1809, but the Congress of Vienna granted Norway to Sweden as compensation.

In 1905, the union between Sweden and Norway was dissolved. Under Gustavus V (r.1907–50), Sweden was neutral in both World Wars. In 1946, it joined the United Nations (UN). Carl XVI Gustaf succeeded in 1973. In 1995, Sweden joined the European Union (EU). The Social Democrats have been in government almost continuously since 1932. In 1994, they formed a minority government, led by Ingvar Carlsson. In 1995 Sweden joined the European Union (EU). In 1996, Göran Persson replaced Carlsson. Persson was re-elected in 1998. The cost of maintaining Sweden's extensive welfare services is a major political issue. In 2003, Sweden's popular foreign minister, Anna Lindh, was murdered in an apparently motiveless attack.


Sweden is a highly developed industrial country (2000 GDP per capita, US$22,200). It has rich iron ore deposits, but imports other industrial materials. Steel is a major product, and is used to manufacture aircraft, cars, machinery, and ships. Forestry and fishing are important. Farmland covers 10% of the land. Livestock and dairy farming are valuable activities; crops include barley and oats.

Political map

Physical map


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A kingdom of northern Europe that reached the height of its power during the late Renaissance. Sweden was the homeland of Scandinavian pagans who held to their traditional gods until the tenth century and were among the last in Europe to be converted to Christianity. A series of clans fought for control of this part of Scandinavia, where kings were elected by councils of nobles rather than inheriting their titles. A new era began when Queen Margaret I of Denmark established the Kalmar Union in 1397, uniting the states of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden under an elected Danish monarch. The Kalmar Union was intended to balance the rising power of the Hanseatic League, a union of cities in Germany and other points in northern Europe. But the kings and nobility of Sweden and Denmark were unfriendly allies and frequently clashed over their respective territory and trade. In the meantime, Sweden developed its own parliament, the Riksdag, comprised of four estates of clergy, nobility, burghers, and farmers. This body frequently contended with the Danish monarchs; the conflict between Danish royalty and Swedish nobility reached a bloody climax in 1520, when King Christian II ordered the execution of hundreds of Swedish nobles in Stockholm.

Forging an alliance with the Hanseatic League, Gustav Vasa broke with Denmark and established Sweden as an independent state. Elected king in 1523, Gustav Vasa defied the Catholic Church, establishing Protestantism as the national church. He made himself the head of the church as well as the state and required all Swedish citizens to attend Sunday church services, which became a useful platform for rallying support. Vasa reformed the tax code and confiscated church lands to shore up the Swedish treasury.

The Bible was first translated into Swedish in 1541, an event that spread literacy throughout the kingdom and gave impetus to the development of a national literature. A nationalist movement known as Gothicism arose during this time, when Swedish writers harkened back to the wars and accomplishments of the Gothic tribes.

King Gustavus Adolphus, who ruled Sweden from 1611 until 1632, founded a Swedish empire in northern Europe and fought for the Protestant princes in Germany during the Thirty Years' War against Sweden's main economic rival, the Holy Roman Emperor. Gustavus Adolphus won an important victory at the Battle of Breitenfelt in 1631, but in the next year he was killed at the Battle of Lutzen. In the meantime, his armies were sweeping through central and eastern Europe, and by the Treaty of Westphalia that ended the war Sweden took possession of much of the Baltic Sea coastlands. This hotly contested area was vital to trade between northern Europe and the interior of Russia, which supplied valuable commodities such as furs, honey, and slaves to the European market. But the growing power of Russia made it increasingly difficult for Sweden to defend, and the kingdom lost most of its possessions south of the Baltic Sea in the Great Northern War with Russia in the early eighteenth century.

See Also: Thirty Years' War; Vasa, House of

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Culture Name



Identification. The people who came to be called Swedes were mentioned by the Roman historian Tacitus in 98 c.e. The names given to these peopleSviones, Svear, swaensker led to the modern English term. Sweden has been a sovereign state for more than a millennium, and this has fostered cultural cohesion.

Centuries of relative ethnic, religious, and linguistic homogeneity were followed by substantial immigration during the last sixty years, creating a multicultural society. The indigenous Sami (sometimes called Lapp) people live in the northernmost part of the country and the neighboring states.

Location and Geography. The land area is 173,732 square miles (449,964 square kilometers). Except for mountain chains in the north and west along the Norwegian border, the land is relatively flat. Half is blanketed by forests, while just under a tenth is farmed. There are nearly 100,000 lakes, and a long, rocky coastline on the Baltic Sea. These diverse landscapes are warmed by the Gulf Stream, creating a temperate climate.

Despite Swedes' love of long summer days at waterside cottages, there has been a continuing movement of the population from rural areas to urban centers for more than a century. The largest city is Stockholm, the political, economic, and cultural hub. This port city is in the southernmost third of the country, where a large majority of the population lives; it has been the capital since 1523.

Demography. The population is about 8.9 million people as of 2000. A land of relative ethnic homogeneity has been transformed into a multiethnic society, by immigration in the second half of the twentieth century. Today, about a tenth of the inhabitants are foreign-born, and an additional one-tenth were born in Sweden but have at least one foreign-born parent. These include persons from the rest of Scandinavia and Finland. Immigrants from non-Nordic countries are concentrated largely in urban areas, particularly Stockholm, despite government efforts to promote a more even distribution. The indigenous Sami people number between 17,000 and 20,000.

Linguistic Affiliation. Most citizens speak Swedish as their first language and English as their second. Swedish is a north Germanic language related to Norwegian, Danish, Icelandic, and Faeroese; it has incorporated elements of German, French, English, and Finnish. The language has been nationally standardized for more than a century, but regional variations in pronunciation persist. English is a required second language in school. The many immigrant groups speak roughly two hundred languages, of which the largest first language is Finnish, which is spoken by about 200,000 persons. The public school system allows immigrant children to continue studying their first languages as a supplement to their other studies.

Symbolism. In 1928, Prime Minister Per Albin Hansson described Sweden as folkhemmet, "the people's home." This metaphor of the nation as a great family household helped nourish the general-welfare society for the remainder of the century. Folkhemmet stood at the center of a cluster of institutions symbolizing social democratic ideals of equality and mutual care. Day-care centers, hospitals, old-age homes, communal music schools, municipal meeting centers (folkets hus ), labor unions, and First of May parades were symbols of the new society.

Another significant set of symbols is linked to Sweden's agrarian past. Examples include mid summer dances, Maypoles, painted wooden horses from the province of Dalarna, and Christmas feasts. Industrialization and urbanization came late, helping to fuel a twentieth-century cultural emphasis on modernity. Rational planning and high technology became important collective orientations, as seen in meticulously designed suburbs and in corporations that project an aura of acute rationality. The image of a supermodern nation also drew support from pioneering policies and practices in child care, gender equality, and sexual freedom. Social innovation in the 1960s and 1970s led many foreigners to view Sweden as a forerunner of the future.

The flag was often downplayed as a symbol. In the decades after World War II, internationalist ideals made it embarrassing to exhibit the flag to a degree that would be normal in other countries. By the early 1990s, the flag had become popular in the small subculture of anti-immigrant, right-wing extremists. This made it unattractive to the rest of the population. Only recently has this blue and yellow flag been employed more widely. The partial relinquishment of sovereignty to the European Union (EU) is seen by many people as jeopardizing national integrity; renewed interest in the flag is one response to that situation.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. The first people arrived as an ice age ended between 12,000 and 10,000 b.c.e. They were tribes of reindeer hunters. Stone, bronze, and iron tools were developed, and by the time of Tacitus there was trade with the Roman empire. Bands of Vikings pursued plunder and commerce as they traveled by ship over the Baltic Sea and up Russian rivers, as well as into Western Europe, between 800 and 1050 c.e. Around 1000 c.e. the many independent provinces began to be united into a single, loosely federated kingdom. Monarchs were able to impose increasing degrees of national power in succeeding centuries. State building advanced rapidly under Gustav Vasa, who was elected king in 1523 c.e. He confiscated lands from the Roman Catholic Church and the nobility, promoted the Lutheran Reformation, built a German-inspired central administration, imposed taxes, suppressed dissent, and established a hereditary monarchy. By the end of his reign in 1560 c.e., Sweden was a relatively consolidated kingdom. The economy was predominantly agricultural, supplemented by iron and copper mining. During the next 250 years, Sweden fought wars against Denmark, Russia, Poland, and Norway. The nineteenth century brought peace, but poverty prompted mass emigration, particularly to North America.

National Identity. Sweden's egalitarian society builds on historical circumstances that favor a sense of solidarity. More than a thousand years of continuous existence as a sovereign state allowed for the gradual development of strong national institutions. During the medieval period, the practice of serfdom was never established, and the preponderance of independent farmers helped minimize social class differences and nurture an ethic of equality. Relative ethnic, religious, and linguistic homogeneity facilitated the establishment of a national community. Wars with neighboring states sharpened consciousness of Swedishness in contrast to opposing national identities.

Ethnic Relations. Between the late 1940s and late 1960s, the booming economy attracted skilled workers from southern Europe. Those workers were allowed to immigrate freely and gain full citizenship. Norway, Denmark, and Finland also provided large numbers of immigrants.

No other affluent nation in recent decades has accepted as many political refugees, per capita, as Sweden has. People fleeing wars and repression from such places as Hungary, Vietnam, Chile, and Kurdistan have been granted a safe haven. In the 1990s, Sweden was the leading industrialized nation, in relation to population, in accepting those uprooted by wars in the former Yugoslavia. Foreigners enjoy full access to the welfare system, can vote in local elections, and can become citizens in five years.

Today it is common to hear a distinction made between "Swedes" (svenskar ) and "immigrants" (invandrare). This distinction is linked to physical appearance, imputed cultural affiliation, and social class. A person who bears a Swedish passport, speaks Swedish fluently, and is the daughter of two Swedish citizens may still be classified by some as an immigrant if she appears to be of African or Asian descent. Socially concerned citizens avoid this dichotomy, and the legal system makes no distinction. Official public documents that deal with immigration often use alternative formulations such as "new Swedes."

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

The country is renowned for its urban planning. Through most of the twentieth century, close cooperation between municipalities and private firms was the usual form for urban planning. One goal was to design vibrant neighborhoods, complete with schools, workplaces, community buildings, parks, health clinics, and shops; a successful example is Vällingby, a Stockholm suburb that attracted international attention upon its completion in 1954. Traffic safety has been an ongoing preoccupation of planners, and that effort, combined with campaigns against drunk driving, has given the country the world's lowest rate of traffic deaths.

In 1965, the parliament decided to promote the building of a million new housing units in the succeeding ten years. As a result, even working-class residents have one of the highest housing standards in the world. A majority of the people live in apartments in towns and cities, while a substantial minority own their own houses. Summer cottages are popular, and cooperative communal gardens provide opportunities for city dwellers to grow their own vegetables.

Swedish functionalism, in architecture as well as furniture design, is a modernist style that emphasizes practical utility. In architecture, functionalism has often involved standardization as a way to lower costs and ensure high levels of hygiene and safety. The displacement of historic city centers by glass and steel commercial buildings has provoked a backlash against functionalism in the last thirty years. The style has fared better in furniture design, which features simplicity, practicality, and the use of wood and other natural materials.

A diffident respect for other people's privacy is typical in public spaces, where voices are kept low, bus passengers converse minimally, and wellknown individuals are rarely accosted. The custom of removing one's shoes before entering a home marks a sharp conceptual separation between the public and private realms.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. There is a wide array of culinary choices, including pizza, kebabs, falafel, hamburgers, and Chinese cuisine. Nonetheless, it is customary to identify certain items as particularly Swedish because of their association with the agricultural or early industrial past. The term husmanskost, or homely fare, refers to a basic diet of potatoes, meat or fish, and a hearty sauce. A less agrarian dinner alternative is the smörgåsbord. This buffet meal of cold and hot hors d'oeuvres often includes various forms of herring, meats, cheeses, and vegetables.

Breakfast typically includes bread with butter or cheese; muesli or cornflakes with filmjölk, a yogurtlike milk product; and coffee. Relatively light hot or cold lunches at midday customarily are followed by early-evening suppers. Common components of these two meals include bread, pasta, potatoes, carrots, cabbage, peas, herring, salmon, and meat. Immigration has enriched the range of restaurants, and restaurant patronage is rising.

Effective regulation has made Swedish food perhaps the safest in the world; standardized symbols identify foods that are low-fat, ecologically certified, or produced abroad under humane working conditions. Vegetarian, vegan, and animal-rights movements have prompted Sweden to become the first E.U. member to outlaw battery cages for hens.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. The smörgåsbord is well adapted to festive meals such as Christmas, Easter, Midsummer, and wedding banquets. Meat and fish dishes have greater prominence at these times, as do schnapps and other alcoholic beverages. Certain holidays have trademark dishes: The feast of Saint Lucia (13 December) calls for saffron buns, Midsummer revelers eat pickled herring and new potatoes, and late summer is a time for crayfish parties (kräftskivor ) and, in the north, gatherings for the ingestion of fermented herring (surströmming).

Basic Economy. The economy is unusually diversified for a small country. Sweden is home to several giant transnational corporations, which dominate foreign trade. Their economic and political might is counterbalanced by large labor unions and a strong public sector.

Exports account for 36 percent of the gross domestic product in a nation that has been open to the globalization of its economy. Sweden was early in opening its telecommunications and other key domestic markets to foreign competition. European Union membership has forced the country to become less liberal in its trade policy. Sweden has not joined the European Monetary Union; its currency remains the krona.

Land Tenure and Property. Less than a tenth of the land is devoted to agriculture, mostly in the form of family farms. Forested land is held largely by individuals and corporations; the state owns less than 5 percent. Access to nature is protected by allemansrätten, the right of common access to land. This law makes it permissible for anyone to walk and camp on almost all private property; landowners are not permitted to barricade their estates. Strict building codes safeguard the quality of publicly accessible spaces. Urban apartment units are often owned by national renters' associations rather than by private landlords, an arrangement that makes it possible for working-class people to obtain desirable addresses.

Commercial Activities. Forests and iron ore have enriched the economy since medieval times, and those natural resources remain important. The largest export industries today are in the engineering and high-technology sectors. These knowledge-based fields benefit from the country's massive public investment in schools and universities, which has produced a highly skilled workforce. The public-sector activities of child care, education and health care account for a significant proportion of employment.

Major Industries. The country's greatest industrial strength is in engineering and related high-technology manufacturing. Major products include telecommunications equipment, cars and trucks, airplanes, household appliances, industrial machinery, electricity generation and transmission systems, steel and high-grade steel products, armaments, paper and pulp, furniture, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals.

Trade. All the major industries are export-oriented and depend on economies of scale created by sales beyond the small domestic market. Pop music in English is another notable export. Major trading partners include Germany, Britain, the United States, and the Nordic neighbors. Significant imports include computers and telecommunications equipment, industrial machinery, motor vehicles, food, clothing, chemicals, and fossil fuels. Trade with developing countries has been encouraged by social democratic aid policies and, during the Cold War, by political neutrality.

Division of Labor. Career paths depend to a great extent on educational attainment. Public funding of education, including universities, has made it possible for the children of manual laborers to prepare for and obtain executive and professional positions. Opportunities for achieving high status are thus relatively equal, but persons with affluent and well-educated parents are overrepresented in elite occupations.

The Security of Employment Act of 1974 and subsequent laws limit the power of employers to fire workers at will; legislation also sets minimum periods of notice before layoffs. Adult education and retraining are widespread, encouraged by active labor-market policies that promote full employment. There is a high level of employee participation in workplace decision making, particularly in health and safety matters. More than 80 percent of workers belong to trade unions.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. The distribution of income is among the most equal in the industrialized world, although inequality rose rapidly in the 1990s. The extremes of wealth and poverty have been reduced through the efforts of social democratic governments and trade unions. Manual labor is well paid, and higher education leads to relatively small monetary dividends.

Symbols of Social Stratification. Many traditional markers of social class affiliation have faded in recent decades: language reform in the early 1970s discouraged the use of the formal second-person pronoun to address persons of high standing; typically white-collar jobs in the office and service sectors have displaced much employment in traditionally working-class sectors such as factories and mines; dress standards have become less class-differentiated and more relaxed; and regional accents have been muted by a national media culture.

The one significant caste distinction is that of "Swedes" versus "immigrants," usually those from less affluent lands. This division is particularly notable in housing, as certain satellite suburbs of major cities have come to be seen as immigrant domains characterized by disorder and danger. Residents of these communities often experience a sense of exclusion, and their unemployment rates are higher. But even in the most notorious of these suburbsStockholm's Rinkebythe rates of poverty and crime are relatively low.

Political Life

Government. Sweden is a parliamentary democracy with a ceremonial monarch. Four constitutional laws define the form of government and guarantee freedom of the press and of expression as well as open access to public documents. A unicameral parliament is elected by universal adult suffrage in a proportional representation system. During the current four-year term (19982002), seven parties share the 349 parliamentary seats. Parties typically divide into a left-leaning "socialist" bloc and a right-leaning "bourgeois" bloc; a party or coalition of parties in the more successful bloc forms an administration consisting of a prime minister and about twenty other cabinet members. Local government consists of elected county and municipal councils.

Leadership and Political Officials. Political parties are stable; five of the current seven have been represented in the parliament since 1921. The largest party, the Social Democrats, won 36 percent of the vote in the 1998 election. Closely allied with the labor movement, the Social Democrats have been in power, singly or in a coalition, for sixty of the last sixty-nine years. The current administration depends on the support of the Left Partya democratic-socialist, eco-feminist partyand the environmentalist Green Party. The rival of this alliance is the Moderate Party, which received 23 percent of the vote in 1998. Supported by the well-to-do and by industry, the Moderates work for tax cuts, welfare-state retrenchment, and increased military expenditure. Three smaller partiesChristian Democratic, Center, and Liberaljoin the Moderates in the bourgeois bloc.

Elections are noted for high voter turnout, effective shielding against corruption by monied interests, and a focus on contested issues rather than personalities. A demanding standard of financial honesty is expected of politicians, and even small-scale tax evasion or misuse of an expense account can lead to removal from office. An elected official may be unfaithful in marriage, but to get caught driving while intoxicated could mean the end of a political career.

A tradition of public access to official documents dates back to the Freedom of the Press Act of 1766. Any individual has a right to see almost any document in national or local government files. There are exceptions to protect the privacy of individuals, but the state's power to classify documents as national-security secrets is strictly limited.

Social Problems and Control. The legal system is less elaborately codified than continental European systems but less reliant on case-law precedents than is Anglo-American law. New legislation is prepared with the help of official commissions of inquiry that produce exhaustive published reports. Judges, administrators, and lawyers later refer to these reports when interpreting the law. Civil and criminal cases are tried in a three-tiered court system, and a parallel system exists for proceedings concerning public administration. In certain kinds of cases, professional judges are joined on the bench by elected lay assessors (nämndemän ) who participate in deliberations with the judges. There are no executions, and prison is reserved principally for those who commit violent crimes. Fines are issued in proportion to the income of the guilty party.

Sweden invented the ombudsman in 1809. An ombudsman is an independent public official who hears complaints from citizens, investigates abuses, and seeks to ensure that authorities follow the law and that citizens' rights are protected. In addition to four general ombudsmen appointed by the parliament, there are specialized ombudsmen for children's rights, disabled persons' rights, consumer issues, journalistic ethics, equal opportunities for women and men, prevention of ethnic discrimination, and prevention of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Scrupulous compliance with laws and social conventions is widespread because of moral pressure from fellow citizens. Considerable conscientiousness is generated by conversations between adults and children concerning moral and social issues. Violence is condemned, gun ownership is carefully regulated, and the media describes with horror the massacres that occur in other countries.

A vexing social problem during the last decade has been racist violence by right-wing extremists. A small number of young men, often from troubled homes, become "skinheads," neo-Nazis, or motorcycle-gang members. Their attacks on nonwhite immigrants and proimmigrant journalists and public servants have provoked public outrage. Antiracist sentiments are expressed in marches and rallies, journalistic reports, educational campaigns, and government investigations.

Military Activity. The nation has not been at war since 1814. An official policy of "nonalignment in peace aiming at neutrality in war" enabled the country to avoid being drawn into the twentieth century's world wars. During the Cold War, Sweden had the ability to make an atomic bomb but chose not to do so. Situated between the two antagonistic superpower blocs, the country preserved its independence by means of technologically sophisticated conventional armed forces, civilian-based defense programs, and diplomatic efforts to build solidarity among nonaligned nations as a counterbalance to the superpowers. These policies have continued, with a reduction in military expenditure, since the end of the Cold War.

Current debates concern arms manufacture and conscription. To facilitate nonalignment by avoiding dependence on foreign suppliers, the country has a robust weapons industry. It accounts for less than 1 percent of exports but is strongly opposed by the thousands of residents who engage in international peacemaking efforts. The key questions about conscription are whether to extend it to women or to abolish it in favor of professional, voluntary armed services.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

In Sweden's advanced general welfare state, communal institutions ensure the well-being and economic security of all citizens. No other country has as low a rate of poverty and social exclusion.

Health, education, and social-welfare programs are comprehensive and universal. Coverage for all citizens prevents the development of an underclass. Education is free from preschool through the university level, and most medical care is free or available for negligible fees. The costs of these services are covered by a system of progressive taxation.

The combination of strong popular organizations (labor unions, political parties, and social movements) and activist state agencies provides institutional means to define and respond to social problems. Typically, debates in the media are followed by the appointment of an expert investigative commission, whose findings prompt new legislation. This approach is particularly evident in matters of health and safety.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

The labor movement has organized more than 80 percent of the nation's workers. A child of that movement and of independent evangelical churches and temperance campaigns in the early twentieth century is adult education. Roughly one-third of adults participate, most often through study circles sponsored by nonprofit organizations. Other popular associations are devoted to amateur sports, music, and the enjoyment and protection of nature.

There is a network of popular organizations concerned with international peace and justice. The country consistently has supported the United Nations and has been one of the largest providers of personnel for peacekeeping operations. Stockholm has hosted many international conferences, such as the 1996 World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children. These activities foster former prime minister Olof Palme's vision of "common security," a commitment to international development and disarmament as a strategy for easing global tensions.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. No other country has a higher proportion of women as parliamentarians (43 percent) and cabinet ministers (50 percent), and Sweden leads the developed world in the percentage of professional and technical workers who are women. The proportion of women in the labor force is the highest worldwide. This is due both to job opportunities in the public sector, and to the support that sector provides to women in private firms. Public child-care institutions make it easier for women to work outside the home. Nonetheless, some occupational segregation still exists; corporate chief executives tend to be male, for example, and primary school teachers female. However, the traditionally gender professions (female child-care workers, male doctors and police officers) are becoming more equally shared.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. With a robust feminist movement, comprehensive publicly supported child care, and an unparalleled percentage of women in government, Sweden is considered a leader in gender equality. Advancement in this arena is a significant national self-stereotype, a symbol of what distinguishes Swedes from others.

Two pieces of recent legislation reflect gender attitudes. In 1995, Sweden began reserving one month of parental leave for fathers. After the birth of a child, a couple receives fifteen months of paid leave to divide between them, with one month set aside for each parent; a father who chooses not to participate forfeits the couple's parental benefit payment for that month. This policy has increased the rates of paternal participation in child care.

In 1999, Sweden became the first nation to criminalize the buyer, not the seller, of sexual services. The law's authors noted their aim of prosecuting only those they considered the exploiters (normally men), not the exploited (normally women). The sexual liberalism of the 1960s and 1970s has been replaced by laws, attitudes, and enforcement regimes that are among the most stringent in the European Union.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. The selection of romantic, sexual, and conjugal partners is a matter of individual choice. A prospective mate's personal character and appearance are important criteria, while family approval is not. Marrying for money and security is rare; the general welfare society frees individuals to base marriage on affection, not economic need.

Public schools inaugurated modern sex education in 1955. Today free or subsidized contraception allows women to postpone or limit childbearing. Abortion is permitted through the eighteenth week of pregnancy, but 93 percent of abortions are performed before the twelfth week. Roughly one of four couples consists of unmarried partners. Such nonmarital cohabitation (called sambo, or "living with") is socially accepted and has since 1988 entailed nearly the same legal rights and responsibilities as marriage.

Many sambo partners eventually marry, particularly if a child is expected or has arrived, but illegitimacy is not stigmatized. If a couple does not specify a newborn's surname, the child automatically receives the mother's surname. The divorce rate has doubled in the last thirty years. Lesbian and gay couples can have a sambo relationship or can establish a registered partnership with the same legal consequences as matrimony.

Domestic Unit. Families are predominantly nuclear rather than extended. While the two-parent household with children remains normative, the rate of single-parent households is high. No industrialized nation has a higher frequency of one-person households, which are particularly common among young adults in urban areas and among the elderly.

Women are the chief providers of social support for the young and the aged. This burden has been mitigated as women's unpaid work has been partially displaced by state-supported professional child-care and elder-care services. Patriarchal family structures have declined as traditional patterns of male authority and female economic dependency have been supplanted by a reliance on communal institutions.

Inheritance. Since 1845, sons and daughters have had equal rights to inherit. Today the law seeks an equitable balance between potential claimants. A single or widowed person's estate is divided evenly between his or her children or between other relatives. One cannot disinherit one's children: the law overrides wills and sets aside half of an estate for the descendants. Upon a married person's death, the estate belongs to the surviving spouse; when that spouse dies, the couple's children can inherit. If the deceased had children by a former marriage or relationship, they may claim a partial inheritance. Sambo relationships do not entail the same rights of survivorship.

Kin Groups. Kin solidarity is weak beyond the level of the nuclear family. Only 3 to 4 percent of elderly persons live with family members other than their spouses. Working adults typically spend time with their parents at Christmas, on birthdays and anniversaries, and during vacations; those who live in the same city as their parents may have some meals together. Detailed population records kept by the Church of Sweden make it possible for people to trace their kin over many generations.


Infant Care. Expectant mothers are entitled to paid leave from work during the last months of pregnancy. Both parents normally attend free childbirth-education classes; most mothers and some fathers continue with parenting classes. Fathers are usually present at birth. Nearly all mothers breast-feed their babies, a practice made feasible by the fifteen months of paid parental leave per child. Breast-feeding can be done in public places without embarrassment. Parent-child cosleeping is relatively prevalent. Infants are allowed to develop at their own pace; to attempt to "discipline" them in matters that they cannot understand is considered a mark of parental ignorance.

Child Rearing and Education. Most young children spend some of their time in professional child-care settings. These institutions are publicly funded and are available to all children. Parents may choose between day-care centers, part-time children's groups, drop-in preschool activity centers, and child minders in private homes. Most of these services are municipally organized, but some take the form of nonprofit foundations, private companies, and parent cooperatives. User fees cover about 14 percent of the total costs, with tax revenues covering the rest.

Schools are well funded and of high quality. Until the late 1990s there were few private schools. The public school system emphasizes inclusive values such as aiding children with special difficulties rather than targeting resources toward the most talented pupils. Much school activity cultivates independence and self-sufficiency. At the same time, cooperative social skills are of central importance and are nurtured in after-school activities, leisure-time centers, clubs, and sports leagues.

In 1979, the parliament passed a law forbidding corporal punishment, making Sweden the first nation in which parents were forbidden to strike their children. The law is widely known and accepted.

Literature written for children is frank, open, and nonpatronizing. This sensibility was visible in the critical social realism of many 1960s and early-1970s works, and is equally present in the more fantasy-oriented children's books of the decades before and after that period. Strong, self-reliant female characters have been a specialty; the most celebrated is Astrid Lindgren's Pippi Longstocking.

The frankness that characterizes children's literature is typical of conversations between adults and children, and parents engage in serious discussions with their children on morally charged topics ranging from fair play to drugs to sexuality (sex education begins at the age of seven). Taking children seriously is seen as a matter of basic respect for persons who exist in their own right.

Higher Education. About one in three students begins some form of higher education within five years after completing upper secondary school. Half of these students are women. Most universities and colleges are state-financed but locally administered. Free tuition and grants and loans for living expenses make higher learning available without regard to social class.

In regard to adult education, individuals have a right to continue their education in municipally organized programs, which have expanded significantly since 1997. In addition, 150 folk colleges (folkhögskolor ) offer a wide range of state-subsidized courses for adults. Local governments, unions, churches, and voluntary associations run the folk colleges, which are usually residential and are situated in bucolic settings.


Much etiquette involves the ritual enactment of equality. Thanking occurs frequently, and it is common for the person being thanked to offer thanks in return. People seek to repay debts of gratitude and thus restore symmetrical relations. Conversation partners rarely interrupt one another. Politeness requires attentive listening, which is often made evident by affirmative murmurs. When people disagree, they avoid open expression of conflict.

Rigorous codes of modesty prevent interpersonal competition from sabotaging collective life. All forms of boastfulness are proscribed. Academic and corporate titles are seldom used, and conspicuous consumption is condemned. These norms are beginning to erode, however, particularly among businesspeople who participate in a transnational corporate world in which self-promotion is seen as a virtue.


Religious Beliefs. The Church of Sweden emerged as a national church during the Protestant Reformation. For centuries, this evangelical Lutheran institution had state support and cultural hegemony, although it faced competition from nonconformist churches born of nineteenth-century revival movements. In the year 2000, state and church divorced amicably, leaving the church with increased autonomy.

Eighty-five percent of the people are members of the Church of Sweden. There is considerable religious pluralism, as a result of immigration. There are an estimated 250,000 Muslims and 166,000 Roman Catholics as well as significant numbers of adherents of other religious movements. Freedom of religion is constitutionally guaranteed.

Members of the Church of Sweden often say that they are Christian "in their own way," and are uninterested in dogma. The deepest spiritual emotions are often experienced while one is alone in nature. Lutheran ideals and Renaissance humanism have engendered a demanding social morality with an openness to scientific modernity. Boasting about one's faith is considered distasteful.

Religious Practitioners. Recent reforms have made the Church of Sweden a more democratic religious organization. Members elect a General Synod that decides questions of doctrine as well as administrative matters. Women make up 30 percent of the priesthood, a proportion that is rising. Church workers often combine pastoral labors with civic engagement, particularly in support of refugees and international aid. Pastors' presence as community leaders is most evident after collective tragedies such as fatal accidents and violent crimes.

Rituals and Holy Places. Church attendance is low except on special occasions; less than 5 percent of the members regularly attend Sunday services in the Church of Sweden. Holiday observances are more popular. Three of four infants are baptized, of whom half are later confirmed. Three of five marriages are performed by the Church of Sweden.

Death and the Afterlife. Ninety percent of funerals take place in the Church of Sweden. The practical arrangements usually are handled by a national organization that is part of the cooperative movement. Autopsies are common to determine the cause of death, embalming is rare, and cremation is prevalent. Graveyards are noted for their natural beauty. Many individuals believe that death involves losing one's individual existence while becoming part of something greater.

Medicine and Health Care

Sweden's health- and safety-conscious society invests heavily in preventive public-health measures. Educational campaigns promote healthy lifestyles. Individuals can choose their own physicians, and medical visits are free or subject to a nominal charge. As a result of this egalitarian system, social-class differences in health are small. Nonetheless, these differences have grown in the past decade, because of rising income inequality and cutbacks in public budgets. Health care accounts for 7 to 8 percent of the gross national product, not counting the country's massive investments in medical research.

Secular Celebrations

New Year's Day (1 January) is welcomed at midnight by ships' horns and civil-defense sirens. Public bonfires illuminate Walpurgis Night (30 April), a celebration popular among university students. On 1 May, trade unionists, Social Democrats, and their allies march through the cities to express solidarity and protest injustices. The National Day is observed on 6 June. Midsummer (near the summer solstice in June) is a long-awaited holiday of eating, drinking, and dancing, rivaled in importance only by Christmas. August brings crayfish parties. United Nations Day (24 October) is marked mainly in schools. Halloween (31 October) is a recent import. The world's most prestigious scientific and literary prizes are presented by the king on Nobel Day (10 December). Candle-lit pageants break the winter darkness on Lucia Day (13 December). Other significant observances include birthdays (with a special jubilee at age fifty), name days, secondary-school graduation, royal fetes, and the long summer vacation. Widely celebrated religious holidays include Easter, Pentecost, Advent, and Christmas.

The Arts and Humanities

Support for the Arts. Artists are not completely dependent on commercial sales and wealthy patrons. Public funding encourages their work, and the security provided by the general welfare society frees them to take aesthetic risks without fear of destitution. One result is an artistic community known for avant-garde innovation.

Support is channeled through various public and partially public institutions. Recipients range from preeminent national museums to small literary magazines that could not survive without subsidies. Popular participation is also promoted: cultural centers, public libraries, and communal music schools give citizens an opportunity to exercise their creativity.

Literature. Among the most eminent modern authors are August Strindberg, Selma Lagerlöf, Pär Lagerkvist, and Harry Martinson. The most influential living writer is Astrid Lindgren, whose stories are familiar to children in many countries. A genre of particular note is the literary documentary tradition, in which authors since the 1960s have reported on the lives of ordinary people. The common elements of the national literature include a brooding seriousness about social and existential questions, an appreciation of nature, and an avoidance of psychoanalytic speculation.

Graphic Arts. A 1934 parliamentary act stipulated that 1 percent of the expenditure on new public buildings be devoted to works of art. The country's most famous sculptor was Carl Milles, who produced gravity-defying forms. The loving depictions of children and domestic life by the painter Carl Larsson are popular with Swedes and tourists nostalgic for a rural past. It is for design that Sweden is most famous, particularly in wood and glass but also in other media. The interplay of handicraft traditions and social democratic ideals has led to world-renowned work in industrial design, ergonomics, child safety, and products for the disabled.

Performance Arts. Celebrated performers include the soprano Jenny Lind, the film and theater director Ingmar Bergman, and the pop musicians ABBA. The country seldom produces superstars with astronomical incomes. Resources are instead used to provide steady salaries and benefits to ordinary actors, dancers, and musicians, giving them a basic level of security. State subsidies make possible a similar egalitarianism in ticket prices: traditionally upper-class pleasures such as opera, ballet, and theater are affordable to all.

The State of the Physical and Social Sciences

A tradition of technocratic planning, widespread respect for professional expertise, and an increasingly high-technology economy encourage investment in research. Public funding is crucial, and it is administered through national research councils, universities, and specialized institutes. Natural science is quite advanced, particularly as applied in engineering and medicine. Swedish social scientists are noted for their positivistic methodologies, which demand meticulous data collection. Thanks to the Nobel Prizes, foreign laureates and hopefuls maintain ties with their colleagues in Sweden. The Right Livelihood Award, or "Alternative Nobel Prize," honors work that grapples with pressing human problems. In science as in politics, solving such problems is a national preoccupation.


Arter, David. Scandinavian Politics Today, 1999.

Boli, John. New Citizens for a New Society: The Institutional Origins of Mass Schooling in Sweden, 1989.

Bråkenhielm, Carl Reinhold. "Christian Tradition and Contemporary Society." Concilium 256: 2334,1994.

Croall, Stephen. "A New Swedish Model: Safe, Clean Food." Scandinavian Review 87 (3): 2532, 2000.

Daun, Åke. Swedish Mentality, Jan Teeland, trans., 1996.

Frykman, Jonas, and Orvar Löfgren. Culture Builders: A Historical Anthropology of Middle-Class Life, Alan Crozier, trans., 1987.

Hall, Peter. Cities in Civilization: Culture, Innovation, and Urban Order, 1998.

Hannerz, Ulf. Transnational Connections: Culture, People, Places, 1996.

Herlitz, Gilles. Swedes: What We Are Like and Why We Are as We Are, 1995.

Löfgren, Orvar. On Holiday: A History of Vacationing, 1999.

Misgeld, Klaus, Karl Molin, and Klas Åmark, eds. Creating Social Democracy: A Century of the Social Democratic Labor Party in Sweden, 1993.

Orfali, Kristina. "The Rise and Fall of the Swedish Model."

Arthur Goldhammer, trans. In Antoine Prost and Gérard Vincent, eds., A History of Private Life, 1991.

Palmer, Brian. "Wolves at the Door: Existential Solidarity in a Globalizing Sweden." Ph.D. dissertation. Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, 2000.

Popenoe, David. "Family Decline in the Swedish Welfare State." The Public Interest, 102: 6577, 1991.

Pred, Allan. Even in Sweden: Racisms, Racialized Spaces, and the Popular Geographical Imagination, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000.

Rothstein, Bo. Just Institutions Matter: The Moral and Political Logic of the Universal Welfare State, 1998.

Ruth, Arne. "The Second New Nation: The Mythology of Modern Sweden." In Stephen R. Graubard, ed., NordenThe Passion for Equality, 1986.

Scott, Franklin D. Sweden: The Nation's History, 1988.

Sontag, Susan. "Letter from Sweden." Ramparts, July 1969.

Stromberg, Peter. Symbols of Community: The Cultural System of a Swedish Church, 1986.

Sverne, Tor. "Children's Rights in Scandinavia in a Legal and Historical Perspective." Family and Conciliation Courts Review 31 (3): 299312, 1993.

Trägårdh, Lars. "Welfare State Nationalism: Sweden and the Specter of the European Union." Scandinavian Review 87 (1): 1823, 1999.

Web Sites

Nordic News Network.

Statistics Sweden. Sweden in Figures 2000,

Swedish Institute. Factsheets on Sweden series.

Brian C. W. Palmer

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The people of Sweden are called Swedes. Minorities include about 300,000 Finns in the north and approximately 20,000 Sami. For more information on the Finns, see the chapter on Finland in Volume 3; on the Sami, see the chapter on Norway in Volume 7.

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SwedenAbaddon, gladden, gladdon, Ibadan, madden, sadden •abandon, Brandon, Rwandan, Ugandan •Baden, Baden-Baden, Coloradan, garden, harden, lardon, Nevadan, pardon •Wiesbaden • bear garden •tea garden •Armageddon, deaden, leaden, redden •Eldon, Sheldon •Brendan, tendon •Dresden •Aden, Aidan, Haydn, laden, maiden •handmaiden •cedarn, cotyledon, dicotyledon, Eden, monocotyledon, Sweden •wealden •bestridden, forbidden, hidden, midden, outridden, ridden, stridden, unbidden •Wimbledon •linden, Lindon, Swindon •Wisden • Mohammedan • Myrmidon •harridan • hagridden • Sheridan •bedridden • Macedon • Huntingdon •Dryden, guidon, Leiden, Poseidon, Sidon, widen •Culloden, hodden, modern, sodden, trodden •Cobden • downtrodden •Auden, broaden, cordon, Gordon, Hordern, Jordan, warden •churchwarden • louden • bounden •loden, Snowdon •beholden, embolden, golden, olden •hoyden • Bermudan • wooden •Mukden • gulden • sudden •Blunden, London •Riordan • bourdon • bombardon •celadon • Clarendon •burden, guerdon

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SWEDEN , kingdom in N. Europe, part of the Scandinavian peninsula. It is unlikely that there were Jews in Sweden in pagan times or in the Catholic Middle Ages, nor was their presence favored in Lutheran Sweden. Several regulations issued in 1685, directed against the presence of Jews in the country, seem to indicate that Jews had resided there illegally for certain periods. In the first ordinance, which referred to the Jews as "revilers of Christ and his communion" and justified their removal from the country in order to protect the pure Lutheran faith, permission to stay was granted in exceptional cases only. Some Jewish creditors of Charles xii, who had followed the king from Turkey, were allowed to stay in Sweden with their families for about ten years.

The position changed under the rule of the enlightened monarch Gustav iii (1771–92). In 1774 Aaron Isaac, a seal engraver from Buetzow, Mecklenburg, arrived in Stockholm; in the following year he received the king's permission to settle there, along with his brother, his partners, and their families. A cemetery was consecrated with royal permission in 1776; subsequently it was named Aronsberg in honor of Aaron Isaac. In 1779 Parliament, with the king's support, granted Jews the right to settle in Stockholm, G?teborg, and Norrk?ping, under certain conditions and with a measure of religious freedom. Accordingly, in 1782 the royal office of trade and commerce issued "regulations governing those members of the Jewish people who wish to enter the country." The Swedish regulations were modeled on those of other European countries, especially *Prussia, but in certain respects they were more liberal, so as to attract potentially useful Jewish immigrants. Jews were allowed to settle only in the three cities mentioned above, where they could hold religious services, acquire real estate, and engage in industry and in those trades that were not subject to the guilds. According to the country's constitution, non-Christians were excluded from all government positions and were not entitled to vote. On the other hand, following the practice of other European countries, Jews were allowed autonomy in their own affairs, including religious worship and welfare activities, inheritances, guardianships, and marriages. Intermarriage was prohibited, with the exemption of a few wealthy Jews. While these laws were in force, Jews in the cities were regarded as rivals and intruders, while the predominantly liberal-minded officialdom came to their defense. The accusations against the Jews, as well as the arguments in their defense, were basically the same as those found on the European mainland. The financial crises which afflicted Europe after the Napoleonic wars led to antisemitic agitations in Sweden as elsewhere.

To those influenced by economic liberalism, including King Charles xiv John and his minister of finance, the 1782 regulation governing Jewish immigration appeared increasingly obsolete. It was repealed on June 30, 1838, and replaced by a royal decree by which the Swedish Jews, hitherto a colony of foreigners enjoying defined rights, were incorporated into the Swedish state. From then on they were to be called "adherents of the Mosaic faith," an appellation which remained officially valid. The former kehillot were termed Mosaic communities and Jewish autonomy was abolished. The restrictions on Jews contained in the constitution and the civil code could not be lifted without the approval of Parliament, but virtually all administrative practices detrimental to them were wiped out. However, the new decree aroused such strong and widespread opposition that in September of the same year the government was obliged to abrogate the regulation entitling the Jews to settle anywhere in the country. Henceforth, foreign Jews were permitted to reside only in Stockholm, G?teborg, and Norrk?ping as before, with the addition of Karlskrona. Despite these concessions to anti-Jewish feelings, no reform in the history of Swedish Jewry can compare in significance with the decree of June 1838, which marked the beginning of a development that led to complete political emancipation and basic acceptance as citizens and members of the community. This decree, albeit modified in a few points, governed the civil rights of Swedish Jews until 1951. Due to the conservative immigration policy of the government, the number of Jews in 1838 was still small, amounting to about 900 persons, more than 800 of whom lived in Stockholm and G?teborg.

During the 1840s, free trade principles prevailed in Sweden; this led to the lifting of almost all existing restrictions on Jewish occupations and, in turn, to the elimination of the conflict of interest between the Jews and the rest of the population. On the initiative of the government and liberal-minded members of Parliament, the emancipation of the Jews was completed during the ensuing decades. They were entitled to reside in any part of the country, to acquire real estate, to intermarry, and to participate in municipal elections. The last barrier fell in 1870. After long debates the Jews (and the Catholics) were given the franchise and entitled to hold political office. Nevertheless, until 1951 membership of the Swedish state church was a requirement for ministerial office. Paralleling emancipation, assimilation made rapid gains. Religious services were modeled on those of German Reform Jewry. The psalms were chanted in Swedish and sermons delivered in that language. The liturgy, although shortened, continued to be in Hebrew, but Swedish prayers were interpolated. The community of G?teborg led the way toward Reform and was the first to introduce the use of the organ in the synagogue (1855). Members of the Henriques and Warburg families were

especially active in favor of Reform, backed by the chief rabbi of G?teborg, Carl Heinemann (1837–68).

The rise of political antisemitism in Central Europe was of little significance for the Jews of Sweden. Their relationship with the non-Jewish population remained harmonious, although there was a perceptible increase in antisemitic manifestations. The Jews played a major role in the cultural life of Sweden, out of proportion to their numbers, especially in the fields of music, painting, and literary criticism. However, Jewish activities declined. During that period, the chief rabbi of Stockholm, Hungarian-born Gottlieb Klein (1882–1944), was the outstanding representative of liberal theology. Immigration from eastern Europe proved to be one of the most significant events of the period between the 1860s and 1933. The new immigrants were more pronouncedly Jewish than the old Swedish-Jewish families that dominated the congregations founded during the 18th century. They supported the existing congregations and founded new ones in the provinces, for example in Malm?. According to official statistics, in 1880 about 3,000 Jews lived in Sweden. The 1930 census recorded 7,044 Jews in the country, 1,391 of whom were non-citizens. About 4,000 resided in Stockholm, and the majority of the others in Malm? and G?teborg.

Holocaust Period

The victory of National Socialism in Germany (1933) created in Sweden a Jewish and a refugee problem. Efforts by Swedish Jewish refugee organizations to save German Jews by transferring them to Sweden were impeded by the country's restrained refugee policy. The authorities feared that the refugees would increase unemployment, from which Sweden suffered badly as a result of the 1929 world crisis, and that antisemitism would grow because of an increasing Jewish population. The upper echelon of Swedish society had been pro-German from earlier days, and although the Nazis were never powerful in Sweden, antisemitism increased as Hitler's power expanded. In 1938, when it became publicly known that the Jews in Germany were in imminent physical danger, the Swedish Jewish and other refugee organizations increased their pressure on the Swedish government to develop a more liberal immigration policy. The consequence was sensational counter-measures in business circles, polemics in the press, and even denouncements, by various student organizations and other bodies, of the so-called "Jewish invasion." The motivations behind these measures were usually not directly antisemitic, but stressed in particular the dangers connected with unemployment. The consideration of the so-called "racial question" was undeniable, however. The government yielded to public pressure, and the fact that Sweden abolished the regulation allowing every alien to remain in the country for three months without a visa was of far-reaching importance. The obligation to have a visa was from then on dealt with very strictly, especially for Jews, and thousands of requests were denied, even when the required material guarantees were provided by Swedish Jews. Up to the beginning of the war, about 3,000 refugees were able to leave Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia for Sweden, in addition to 1,000 so-called transmigrants who traveled on from Sweden to other countries. After Kristallnacht (Nov. 1938), 150 adults and 500 children (without their parents) were granted entry permits. A Jewish immigration committee was charged with the painful task of choosing out of the many applications, so that the quota would not be surpassed. Among those who were unable to continue their trip because of the outbreak of the war were a few hundred ?alutzim (members of Zionist youth movements intending to settle in Palestine) who – following the Danish example – were admitted temporarily to agricultural and other training centers (hakhsharah). During World War ii public opinion changed in favor of the refugees, for several reasons. The crimes of the Nazis, which many circles had previously refused to admit, became publicly known. Instead of unemployment there now was a shortage of workers. Moreover, it was realized that, with some good will, it would be possible to receive many more refugees than was previously thought. The turning point in the history of Swedish refugee policy and antisemitism came in November 1942, when Jewish persecutions in German-occupied Norway began. These provoked a general feeling of disgust and angry protests throughout Sweden. About 900 Norwegian Jews who were able to escape to Sweden were readily admitted.

How decisive the change of mind was became obvious in October 1943, when Danish Jewry took flight in order to escape deportation. After a fruitless démarche to the German Foreign Office, the Swedish government officially offered asylum to the fleeing Jews, setting an example of humane policy. Encouraged by the turning tide of the war, the unanimous public opinion in Sweden, and the acclaim of the free world, the Swedish government not only received about 8,000 Jews and some of their relatives from Denmark, but also an almost equal number of Danes fleeing from the German occupation. Moreover, it tolerated the establishment of a clandestine organization on its soil, providing the Danish resistance movement with steadfast communication with the Allies. The communication lines were initiated and maintained with the organizational and financial aid of the Swedish and Danish Jews, among whom Ivar Philipson, a Stockholm lawyer, took a prominent part. Some leaders of the Jewish community in Stockholm were also instrumental in bringing about the mission of Raoul *Wallenberg to Hungary (1944), where he became one of the main benefactors and rescuers of the Budapest Jewish community. Under the guidance of the *World Jewish Congress (wjc), toward the end of the war, Sweden became an important center for the dispatch of food parcels to concentration camp inmates, mainly in Germany. Finally the ties formed by the representative of the wjc, Hillel Storch, with Himmler's masseur, Kersten, led to the historic meeting of Norbert Mazur with Himmler on the eve of Germany's final defeat (April 20–21, 1945). Following their negotiations, many more thousands of concentration camp inmates were included in the rescue operation of Count Folke *Bernadotte. Among the almost 21,000 thus rescued were 3,500 Jews, mostly women. After the war some 10,000 more were brought to Sweden by the Red Cross and unrra. Altogether, more than 200,000 refugees – Finns, Norwegians, Danes, Jews and others – reached Sweden during and after the war.

[Hugo Mauritz Valentin]

Post-War Period

Almost all the Jews of Norway and Denmark who escaped to Sweden returned to their native countries at the end of the war. About half the refugees liberated from concentration camps who went to Sweden toward the end of the war or immediately afterward emigrated overseas, mostly to the United States and Canada or to Israel, while half remained and became citizens of Sweden. As a result, the 1970 Jewish population in Sweden was double that of 1933 and was estimated at 13,000–14,000. According to a 1961 estimate, approximately 1,500 lived in G?teborg, 1,500 in Malm?, 7,000 in Stockholm, 350 in Bor?s (almost all survivors of the Holocaust), 150 in Norrk?ping, and the rest were dispersed in smaller centers. Of the total number, over 5,000 were considered veteran citizens and their descendants, i.e. Jews who had come to Sweden before 1933; over 2,000 were refugees from Central Europe from 1933–39; about 5,500 were survivors of the concentration camps; and approximately 500 were refugees who fled from Hungary in the wake of the 1956 revolution. To these should be added about 1,500 refugees from Poland who went to Sweden after 1968.

The absorption of the many refugees presented Swedish Jewry with new and difficult problems. At the end of World War ii the Jewish communities levied an additional income tax on their members. Half of the revenue from this tax was designated for aid to refugees. Fifteen special schools were opened for refugee children and over 700 students were enrolled in 1946. The aid granted by the Swedish government and the Jewish community was augmented by international Jewish funds, mostly from the American Jewish *Joint Distribution Committee, and later from the *Conference on Jewish Material Claims. Gradually a considerable degree of amalgamation of the refugees and the veteran Jewish community was achieved. In the late 1950s it was possible to state that the majority of the refugees were absorbed in Sweden, from an economic and professional standpoint, and some even socially and culturally.

The shock of the Holocaust, which nearly reached the gates of Sweden, and the experience of encounter with the refugees left a deep impression on Swedish Jewry, in contrast to the isolationist trend that had predominated until the war. The consciousness that they were part of world Jewry and responsible for their brethren found expression in increased participation in world and European Jewish organizations, such as the *World Jewish Congress, ort, and later the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, as well as the Standing Conference of European Jewish Communities. Increased activity on behalf of the establishment of a Jewish state and support of the State of Israel after its establishment were also expressions of the new attitude of the Swedish community. The Zionist movement, which was supported only by a small minority before the war, expanded, and many refugees and veterans joined it. Even most professed non-Zionists participated in activity on behalf of the yishuv. A special appeal for the *Haganah in the winter of 1947–48 collected $300,000, the greatest amount ever reached by an Israel appeal in Sweden (with the exception of the emergency campaign during the *Six-Day War in 1967). A group of young Jews participated as volunteers in the *War of Independence in 1948. The movement on behalf of Israel was further strengthened by the attitude of the Swedish public, which supported the Jewish people's struggle for a state not only through moral and political support but also by providing material aid.

The law of freedom of religion in 1951 abolished the regulation of 1838 requiring that citizens affiliate with a religious organization, on the grounds that a citizen has the right to free decision. The new law aroused great concern among the Jewish communities, which feared that their economic position would be undermined. Apparently these fears were unjustified, for only 350 Jewish adults broke away from their communities. In the postwar period Jewish life was characterized by considerable activity in comparison with the prewar period. Particularly noteworthy were the women's organizations (*wizo and the General Organization of Jewish Women), in addition to increased activity on the part of the Zionists. Other organizations included that of the Nazi victims, the Scandinavian Organization of Jewish Students (sjuf), and the *Bnei Akiva youth movement. Chapters of *B'nai B'rith were founded in the three major cities, Stockholm, G?teborg, and Malm?. The struggle within the communities between Zionists and non-Zionists continued, but the crux of the dispute was not support for Israel, but rather the question of separate Jewish education. On the initiative of the Zionists and the Orthodox, the Hinnukh association established the Hillel Day School in Stockholm. In addition, the communities provided religious instruction in the public schools and ran day camps and summer camps. Cultural activities expanded due to the establishment of a cultural institute on the initiative of newspaper editor Daniel Brick; the cultural club attached to the Israeli embassy; and a large community center established in Stockholm in 1963 with the aid of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany. Brick published the bi-weekly Judisk Kronika (1932– ). A learned monthly, Judisk Tidskrift, was founded by Marcus *Ehrenpreis in 1928 and later edited by Hugo *Valentin, the veteran of the Zionist movement, a historian of Swedish Jewry, and perhaps the most admired figure among Sweden's Jews in his generation. Some time after his death in 1963, the monthly ceased publication.

The economic situation of Swedish Jewry is generally healthy. Jews are active in business, industry, and the liberal professions; they do not hold key positions in the economy, however, with the exception of department stores, which developed mainly through their initiative. Jews occupy a respectable position in cultural and literary life, in the theater, and in the graphic arts. Ragnar *Josephson was a member of the Swedish Academy, which numbers only 18 members and awards the Nobel Prize for Literature. There were no Jews outstanding in Swedish political life, with the exception of Hjalmar Mehr, who served as mayor of Stockholm in the early 1960s. Antisemitism was not widespread; indeed, the extremist antisemitic group led by Einar ?berg had merely a marginal influence on society. Most of the Swedish people rejected antisemitism and were sometimes active on behalf of persecuted Jews. From the 1960s there were conspicuous Swedish efforts on behalf of Jews in the Soviet Union and Arab countries. Swedish Jewry not only enjoys equality, but finds few cultural barriers as well, which has resulted in an increase in the number of intermarriages. While the Holocaust experience and the absorption of the refugees strengthened Jewish identity, the small number of Jews and the openness of Swedish society have worked in the opposite direction.

[Chaim Yahil]

By the mid-1990s, there were 18,000 Jews living in Sweden, a figure that remained stable. The main communities are Stockholm, G?teborg, and Malm?. There are also communities in Bor?s, Varberg, and Uppsala, and a number of Jews live in Helsingborg, Lund, Norrk?ping, and V?xj?. A number of emigrants from the former Soviet Union have also settled in Sweden. The communities are linked by the Official Council of Jewish Communities in Sweden. Swedish Jewry is very active in international Jewish welfare and in supporting development projects in Israel. Stockholm has three synagogues (two Orthodox, one Conservative) and two rabbis. G?teborg has two (one Orthodox, one Conservative) and Malm? one. A Jewish primary school and a kindergarten operate in Stockholm. The community still publishes the bimonthly Judisk Kronka, and there is a weekly Jewish radio program. G?teborg has long had a Jewish kindergarten, Noah's Ark, which was relocated to new multi-purpose premises at a community center that also houses the Jewish retirement home and a kosher food store. In 2002 a Jewish primary school was opened in G?teborg, already doubling in size the following year. The G?teborg community also broadcasts a weekly hour-long Jewish radio program with music, interviews, cultural reviews, and news, repeated on the weekend.

The *Chabad movement established a small presence in G?teborg in 1991, and in 1992 opened a kindergarten, Gan Chaya Mushka, followed five years later by a primary school.

The Swedish legal system permits the expression of antisemitic, racist, and xenophobic ideas, including Holocaust denial, under liberal freedom of speech legislation. Right-wing extremist groups, often with neo-Nazi sympathies, number a few thousand members. The Palestinian Intifada in Israel in the early 2000s was accompanied by a sharp rise in antisemitic attacks in Sweden and a far harsher, less nuanced tone in both the Swedish media and among many of the country's politicians.

See also *Scandinavian Literature.

[Chaim Yahil /

Ilya Meyer (2nd ed.)]

Relations with Israel

The supportive attitude of most of the Swedish people toward the Jews also found expression in Swedish-Israel relations. Because of Sweden's neutrality, her representatives more than once filled important positions in connection with the Palestine question. In 1947, Emil Sandstr?m served as chairman of the special United Nations Committee on Palestine (unscop), which recommended the partition of the country. Count Folke *Bernadotte was the first mediator on behalf of the United Nations on the Israel-Arab conflict in 1948. Dag Hammarskj?ld, the secretary-general of the United Nations, was occupied with the problem of Palestine; General von Horn was chief of staff of the United Nations truce observers; and Gunnar Jarring was a special envoy of the un after the Six-Day War. The assassination of Bernadotte in Jerusalem (1948) overshadowed Swedish-Israel relations for some time and contributed to a delay in the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries until 1950 (ambassadorial level, 1957). But this tragic affair did not alter the basic sympathy of most of the Swedish people toward Israel, and in the course of time regular, friendly relations were established. Swedish policy – traditionally framed by long-dominant Labor governments – has generally supported several principles which were the foundation of Israeli policy: the aspiration for peace, the principle of direct negotiations to solve the Israel-Arab conflict, condemnation of the Arab economic boycott, freedom of passage through the Suez Canal and the Straits of Tiran. On the other hand, Sweden has had – and often voiced – reservations about retaliatory raids and preventive acts on the part of Israel. Her sympathy toward Israel is traditionally echoed in all mainstream political parties – the liberal movement; the evangelical religious movements; the conservative movement. In the late 1960s a "New Left" movement developed with a critical or even hostile attitude toward Israel. Swedish sympathy with Israel has in the past been expressed by financial support from R?dda Barnen, the Swedish branch of Save the Children Fund, and special committees, the most important of which was founded by Selma Arnheim and has supported Youth Aliyah for many years. Swedish funds have established a village in the south of Israel and a children's institution in Jerusalem; women's organizations have participated in the establishment of a training center in Haifa, for communal work in developing countries; and professional unions at one time aided border settlements. Since the 1980s, much of this support has been eroded by increasing sympathy for the Palestinian cause, aided by widespread media and political activity. This general sympathy for the Palestinian cause has resulted in a sizable downturn in Swedish tourism in Israel, in stark contrast to the seven-fold increase in tourism between 1960 and the Six-Day War, for example. There are strong trade links between Sweden and Israel, although the traditional Israeli exports of fruit, vegetables, flowers, and chemicals have been replaced by high-tech products, mainly in the fields of advanced electronics, communications, and medical equipment. Mutual chambers of commerce have been established in both countries. A wide network of cultural connections between the two countries has been systematically expanded. Cultural relations were cemented with the granting of the Nobel Prize for Literature to S.Y. Agnon in 1966, and there is now a vibrant cultural exchange between the two countries, despite frequent calls for boycotts of all Israeli products as well as of sports and cultural exchanges by an increasingly polarized Left and the highly political pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel stance taken by the head of the Swedish Church, Archbishop K.G. Hammar. Leagues for Swedish-Israel friendship exist in both countries

[Chaim Yahil /

Ilya Meyer (2nd ed.)]


general: H. Valentin, Judarnas historia i Sverige (1924); idem, in: yivoa, 8 (1953); V. Jacobowsky, G?teborgs mosaiska f?rsamling (1955); W. Siegel, Mosaiska f?rsamlingen i Malm? 75 a?r (1946). 17thto 19thcenturies: M. Ivarsson and A. Brody, Svensk-judiska pionj?rer och stamf?der … (1956); B. Tarschys, Chevra Kaddischa 150 ?r (1944). holocaust and contemporary period: L. Yahil, Rescue of Danish Jewry (1969); idem, in: Yad Vashem Studies, 6 (1967), 181–220; Adler-Rudel in: ylbi, 11 (1966), 220–41; H. Valentin, Judarna i Sverige (1964). add. bibliography: Mosaiska f?rsamlingen i G?teborg 200 ?r (1980); I. Lomfors, in: S. Scharfstein, Judisk historia fr?n ren?ssansen till 2000-talet (2002); F. Bedoire, Ett judiskt Europakring uppkomsten av en modern arkitektur 18301930 (1998); B. Moback, Livet ?r ingen banalitetjudiska r?ster (2001).

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Compiled from the January 2008 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:

Kingdom of Sweden



Area: 449,964 sq. km. (173,731 sq. mi.)—slightly larger than California.

Cities: Capital—Stockholm (city population: 794,700). Other cities—Goteborg (city population: 493,119), Malmo (city population: 276,244).

Terrain: Generally flat or rolling. Three of the principal rivers, the Ume, the Torne and the Angerman, flow into the Gulf of Bothnia. The highest areas are found in the Kjolen mountain range along the border with Norway, where peaks rise to over 1,500 m; the highest point is at the northern tip of this range, at Kebnekaise, which reaches 2,111 m (6,926 ft.). South of the mountains is the lakeland area, where the Vanern, the largest lake in western Europe—over twice the size of Luxembourg—is situated. South of the lakes is the infertile Smaland plateau, surrounded by the lowland plains that border the sea. The mountainous regions and some northern parts of Sweden are covered in snow for much of the year, and only 8% of the country is given over to agriculture.

Climate: Temperate in south with cold, cloudy winters and cool, partly cloudy summers; sub-arctic in the north. The north of Sweden lies within the Arctic Circle, and continental influences also contribute to the cold climate. In northern areas winters are usually long and extremely cold. The south of Sweden benefits from maritime influences, however, and the climate is milder. In the capital, Stockholm, on the southeast coast, daily average temperatures only fall to -3.1°C (27°F) in February, the coldest month, and are as warm as 17.8°C (64°F) in July. The mean annual rainfall in Stockholm is 22 in., with the largest amount of rain falling between July and September.


Nationality: Noun—Swedes; adjective—Swedish.

Population: (November 2007) 9,179,731.

Annual population growth rate: (2007) 0.76%.

Ethnic groups: Indigenous Swedes, ethnic Finns, ethnic Sami. Immigrants: Total: 491,996 (20% of total population); Finns, Iraqis, ex-Yugoslavia nationals, Iranians, Norwegians, Danes, Greeks, and Turks.

Religions: Lutheran (87%), Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Baptist, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim.

Education: Years compulsory—9. Literacy—-99%.

Health: Infant mortality rate: (2006)—2.80/1,000. Life expectancy—men 78.70 years, women 82.94 years.

Work force: (4.82 million, 2007 est.) Services—70.7%; industry—28.2%; agriculture—1.1%.

Unemployment: (2007)—5.2%.

National holidays: (2008) January 1 (New Year's Day); January 6 (Epiphany); March 21 (Good Friday); March 22 (Easter); March 23 (Easter Sunday); March 24 (Easter Monday); May 1 (May Day and Ascension Day); May 11 (Whit Sunday); June 6 (National Day); June 21 (Midsummer Holiday); November 1 (All Saints' Day); December 25 (Christmas); December 26 (Boxing Day). The eve of a holiday is as important—or more so—than the holiday itself. Most Swedes have the day off, including those working in the civil service, banks, public transport, hospitals, shops, and the media. Others have at least a half-day. This applies especially to Midsummer's Eve, All Saints' Day Eve, and Christmas Eve. The eve of May Day is called Valborg Eve or St Walpurgis. When a holiday falls on a Thursday many Swedes have the following Friday off in addition. When a holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday it is not taken on the following Monday.


Type: Constitutional monarchy.

Constitution: The Swedish Constitution is based on four fundamental laws: the Instrument of Government (originally dating from June 6, 1809), the Act of Succession (1810), the Freedom of the Press Act (1949), and the Riksdag Act. Following partial reforms in 1968 and 1969, a new Instrument of Government and a new Riksdag Act were adopted in 1973 and 1974, and the revised Constitution came into force on January 1, 1975, replacing the Acts of 1809, 1866, and 1949.

Government branches: Executive—monarch (head of state); prime minister (head of government); Cabinet, responsible to parliament. Legislative—unicameral parliament (Riksdag—349 members). Judicial—84 district courts, 10 appeal courts and 2 superior courts.

Political subdivisions: 18 counties, 290 municipalities (townships) and 2 regions.

Political parties: The Moderate Party (conservative), The Liberal Party, The Center Party, The Christian Democratic Party, The Social Democratic Party, The Left Party, and The Green Party.

Suffrage: Universal, 18 years of age. After 3 years of legal residence, immigrants may vote in county and municipal elections (but not in national elections).


GDP: (2007, purchasing power parity) $308.9 billion.

GDP: (2007, official exchange rate) $384.1 billion.

Annual growth rate: (3rd quarter 2007) 2.5%.

Per capita income: (2006, purchasing power parity) $33,897.

Inflation rate: (December 2007) 2.2%.

Natural resources: Forests, hydroelectric power, iron ore, copper, lead, zinc, gold, silver, tungsten, uranium, arsenic, feldspar, timber.

Agriculture: (2006, 2.2% of GDP) Products—dairy products, meat, grains (barley, wheat), sugar beets, potatoes, wood. Arable land—6 million acres.

Industry: (2006, 38% of GDP) Types—machinery/metal products (iron and steel), electrical equipment, aircraft, paper products, precision equipment (bearings, radio and telephone parts, armaments), wood pulp and paper products, processed foods.

Services: (2006, 59.8% of GDP) Types—telecommunications, computer equipment, biotech.

Trade: Exports (2006)—$148.8 billion. Types—machinery, transport equipment, motor vehicles, wood products, paper, pulp, chemicals, iron and steel products, and manufactured goods. Major trading partners, exports (2007)—GGermany 9.9%, U.S. 9.3%, Norway 9.1%, U.K. 7.2%, EU total 59.7%. Imports (2006)—$127.3 billion. Types—machinery, petroleum and petroleum products, chemicals, motor vehicles, iron and steel, foodstuffs, clothing. Major trading partners, imports (2007)—Germany 18.6%, Denmark 8.9%, Norway 8.5%, U.K. 6.9%, Netherlands 6.1%, Finland 6.0%, France 4.9%.


Sweden has one of the world's highest life expectancies and one of the lowest birth rates. The country counts at least 17,000 Sami among its population. About one-fifth of Sweden's population are immigrants or have at least one foreign-born parent. The largest immigrant groups are from Finland, Iraq, Serbia and Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iran, Norway, Denmark, and Poland. This reflects Nordic immigration, earlier periods of labor immigration, and later decades of refugee and family immigration.

Swedish is a Germanic language related to Danish and Norwegian but different in pronunciation and orthography. English is by far the leading foreign language, particularly among students and those under age 50.

Sweden has an extensive child-care system that guarantees a place for all young children from 2–6 years old in a public day-care facility. From ages 7-16, children attend compulsory comprehensive school. After completing the ninth grade, 90% attend upper secondary school for either academic or technical education.

Swedes benefit from an extensive social welfare system, which provides for childcare and maternity and paternity leave, a ceiling on health care costs, old-age pensions, and sick leave among other benefits. Parents are entitled to a total of 480 days' paid leave between birth and the child's eighth birthday, with 60 of those days reserved specifically for the father.


During the seventh and eighth centuries, the Swedes were merchant seamen well known for their far-reaching trade. In the ninth century, Nordic Vikings raided and ravaged the European continent as far as the Black and Caspian Seas. During the 11th and 12th centuries, Sweden gradually became a unified Christian kingdom that later included Finland. Queen Margaret of Denmark united all the Nordic lands in the “Kalmar Union” in 1397. Continual tension within the countries and within the union gradually led to open conflict between the Swedes and the Danes in the 15th century. The union's final disintegration in the early 16th century brought on a long-lived rivalry between Norway and Denmark on one side and Sweden and Finland on the other.

In the 16th century, Gustav Vasa fought for an independent Sweden, crushing an attempt to restore the Kalmar Union and laying the foundation for modern Sweden. At the same time, he broke with the Catholic Church and established the Reformation. During the 17th century, after winning wars against Denmark, Russia, and Poland, Sweden-Finland (with scarcely more than 1 million inhabitants) emerged as a great power. Its contributions during the Thirty Years War under Gustav II Adolf (Gustavus Adolphus) determined the political as well as the religious balance of power in Europe. By 1658, Sweden ruled several provinces of Denmark as well as what is now Finland, Ingermanland (in which St. Petersburg is located), Estonia, Latvia, and important coastal towns and other areas of northern Germany. Russia, Saxony-Poland, and Denmark-Norway pooled their power in 1700 and attacked the Swedish-Finnish empire. Although the young Swedish King Karl XII (also known

as Charles XII) won spectacular victories in the early years of the Great Northern War, his plan to attack Moscow and force Russia into peace proved too ambitious; he fell in battle in 1718. In the subsequent peace treaties, the allied powers, joined by Prussia and England-Hanover, ended Sweden's reign as a great power.

Sweden suffered further territorial losses during the Napoleonic wars and was forced to cede Finland to Russia in 1809. The following year, the Swedish King's adopted heir, French Marshal Bernadotte, was elected Crown Prince as Karl Johan by the Riksdag (parliament). In 1813, his forces joined the allies against Napoleon. The Congress of Vienna compensated Sweden for its lost German territory through a merger of the Swedish and Norwegian crowns in a dual monarchy. Sweden's last war was fought in 1814. It was a brief confrontation with Norway to restrain their demands for independence. The war resulted in Norway entering into union with Sweden, but with its own constitution and parliament. The Sweden-Norway union was peacefully dissolved at Norway's request in 1905.

Sweden's predominantly agricultural economy shifted gradually from village to private farm-based agriculture during the Industrial Revolution, but this change failed to bring economic and social improvements commensurate with the rate of population growth. About 1 million Swedes immigrated to the United States between 1850 and 1890.

The 19th century was marked by the emergence of a liberal opposition press, the abolition of guild monopolies in trade and manufacturing in favor of free enterprise, the introduction of taxation and voting reforms, the installation of a national military service, and the rise in the electorate of three major party groups—Social Democratic Party, Liberal Party, and Conservative Party.

During and after World War I, in which Sweden remained neutral, the country benefited from the worldwide demand for Swedish steel, ball bearings, wood pulp, and matches. Postwar prosperity provided the foundations for the social welfare policies characteristic of modern Sweden. Foreign policy concerns in the 1930s centered on Soviet and German expansionism, which stimulated abortive efforts at Nordic defense cooperation. Sweden followed a policy of armed neutrality during World War II and currently remains nonaligned.

Sweden became a member of the European Union (EU) in 1995. In September 2003 Sweden held a referendum on entering the European Monetary Union. The Swedish people rejected participation, with 56% voting against and 42% for. All parliamentary parties pledged to respect the outcome of the referendum. No new referendum is planned for the foreseeable future.


Popular government in Sweden rests upon ancient tradition. The Swedish parliament (Riksdag) stems from tribal courts (Ting) and the election of kings in the Viking age. It became a permanent institution in the 15th century. Sweden's government is a limited constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system. Executive authority is vested in the cabinet, which consists of a prime minister and 22 ministers who run the government departments. The present Alliance for Sweden government, led by Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, came to power in September 2006. King Carl XVI Gustaf (Bernadotte) ascended to the throne on September 15, 1973. His authority is formal, symbolic, and representational. The unicameral Riksdag has 349 members, popularly elected every 4 years, and is in session generally from September through mid-June.

Sweden has three levels of government: national, regional, and local. In addition, there is the European level which has acquired increasing importance following Sweden's entry into the EU. At parliamentary elections and municipal and county council elections held every four years, voters elect those who are to decide how Sweden is governed and administered. Sweden is divided into 18 counties (lan), 18 county councils (landsting), 290 municipalities (kommuner), and 2 semi-independent regions. Each county (lan) is headed by a governor, who is appointed by the central government. The counties coordinate administration with national political goals for the county. The county council (landsting) is a regional government that is popularly elected with particular responsibility for health and medical care. The municipalities are local governments that deal with issues such as education, public transportation and social welfare. Elected municipal councils are headed by executive committees roughly analogous to the boards of commissioners found in some U.S. cities.

Swedish law, drawing on Germanic and Roman, is neither as codified as in France and other countries influenced by the Napoleonic Code, nor as dependent on judicial practice and precedents as in the United States. Legislative and judicial institutions include, in addition to the Riksdag, the Supreme Court, the Supreme Administrative Court, the Labor Court, the Law Council, District Courts and Courts of Appeal, the Public Prosecutor's Office, the parliamentary ombudsmen and the Chancellor of Justice who oversee the application of laws with particular attention to abuses of authority.

At the national level, the Swedish people are represented by the Riksdag (Swedish parliament) which has legislative powers.

Proposals for new laws are presented by the government which also implements decisions taken by the Riksdag. The government is assisted in its work by the government offices, comprising a number of ministries, and some 300 central government agencies and public administrations.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 2/1/2008


Prime Min.: Fredrik REINFELDT

Dep. Prime Min.: Maud OLOFSSON

Min. of Agriculture, Food, & Fisheries: Eskil ERLANDSSON

Min. of Culture: Lena Adelsohn LILJEROTH

Min. of Defense: Sten TOLGFORS

Min. of Development Aid: Gunilla CARLSSON

Min. of Education: Lars LEIJONBORG

Min. of Enterprise & Energy: Maud OLOFSSON

Min. of Environment: Andreas CARLGREN

Min. of European Affairs: Cecila MALMSTROM

Min. of Finance: Anders BORG

Min. of Foreign Affairs: Carl BILDT

Min. of Foreign Trade: Ewa BJOERLING

Min. of Health & Elderly Care: Maria LARSSON

Min. of Infrastructure: Asa TORSTENSSON

Min. of Integration & Gender Equality Affairs: Nyamko SABUNI

Min. of Justice: Beatrice ASK

Min. for Labor Market Issues: Sven Otto LITTORIN

Min. of Local Government & Financial Markets: Mats ODELL

Min. of Migration: Tobias BILLSTROM

Min. of Schools: Jan BJORKLAND

Min. of Social Affairs: Goran HAGGLUND

Min. of Social Benefits: Cristina Husmark PEHRSSON

Governor, Swedish Central Bank: Stefan INGVES

Ambassador to the US: Jonas HAFSTROM

Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Anders LIDEN

Sweden maintains an embassy in the United States at 2900 K Street, NW, Washington, DC 20007. Telephone: 202-467-2600, Internet:

Consulates General are in New York and Los Angeles. There also are consulates in 31 other U.S. cities. Contact the embassy for locations and telephone numbers.


Ordinary general elections to the Swedish parliament are held every fourth year on the third Sunday in September. County council and municipal council elections take place at the same time. The last elections were held in September 2006. There is a barrier rule intended to prevent very small parties from gaining representation in the parliament. A party must thus receive at least 4% of the votes in the entire country or 12% in a single electoral district to qualify for any seats.

Elections to the Riksdag were held on September 17, 2006. The Alliance for Sweden (a coalition of four center-right parties—the Moderate Party, the Liberal Party, the Christian Democrat, and the Center Party) won 178 of the 349 seats, securing Moderate Fredrik Reinfeldt the position of Prime Minister. The 2006 election results for Sweden's major parties were as follows: the Social Democratic Party (34.99%; 130 seats), the Moderate Party (26.23%; 97 seats), the Center Party (7.88%; 29 seats), the Liberal Party (7.54%; 28 seats), the Christian Democrats (6.59%; 24 seats), the Left Party (5.85%; 22 seats), and the Green Party (5.24%; 19 seats).

The Social Democratic Party has a base of blue-collar workers and public sector employees. It derives much of its power from strong links with the National Swedish Confederation of Trade Unions (LO), which represents blue-collar workers. The party program combines a commitment to social welfare programs and government direction of the economy. The Social Democratic Party has led the government for 65 of the 76 years since 1932; the 2006 election ended its most recent term of 12 consecutive years in office.

The Moderate Party emphasizes personal freedom, free enterprise, and reduction of the public-sector growth rate, while still supporting most of the social benefits introduced sinc the 1930s. The party also supports a strong defense and Sweden's membership in the European Union (EU). Its voter base is urban business people and professionals, but the party also attracts young voters, main-street shop owners, and, to some extent, blue-collar workers. Moderate Party Leader Reinfeldt followed an election strategy of remodeling his party as “New Moderates,” moving away from the party's right-wing, upper-class roots to appeal to a large middle ground of voters, and successfully winning over many who had until then supported the SDP, as well as others who had previously voted for the smaller, non-socialist parties. Reinfeldt was instrumental in uniting the previously divided four parties of the center-right opposition. The Alliance offered alternative policies focusing on job creation that persuaded the voters.

The Center Party maintains close ties to rural Sweden. The main priorities of the party include providing a sound economic climate for business and job creation, climate change and environmental concerns (including nuclear power), and health and welfare issues.

The Left Party, formerly the Communist Party, focuses on feminist issues, employment in the public sector, and the environment. It opposes privatization, cuts in public expenditure, Swedish participation in NATO activities, and EU membership. Its voter base consists mainly of young people, public sector employees, feminists, journalists, and former social democrats.

The Christian Democrat Party is conservative and value-oriented. Its voter base is primarily among members of conservative churches and rural populations. Christian Democrats seek government support for families and better ethical practices to improve care for the elderly.

The Liberal Party's platform is “social responsibility without socialism,” which includes a commitment to a free-market economy combined with comprehensive Swedish social welfare programs. Foreign aid, education and women's equality also are popular issues. The Liberal Party base is mainly centered in educated middleclass voters.

The Green Party is a leftist environmentalist party that attracts young people. The Greens support a phasing-out of nuclear energy in Sweden and hope to replace it with alternative, environmentally friendly energy sources.

The next Swedish election for parliament is scheduled to be held in 2010. In 2009 Sweden will vote for its representatives to the European Parliament.


Sweden is a highly industrialized country. Agriculture, once accounting for nearly all of Sweden's economy, now employs less than 2% of the labor force. Extensive forests, rich iron ore deposits, and hydroelectric power are the natural resources which, through the application of technology and efficient organization, have enabled Sweden to become a leading producing and exporting nation.

The Swedish economic picture has brightened significantly since the severe recession in the early 1990s. Growth has been strong in recent years, with an annual average GDP growth rate of 2.5% for the period 2000-2004 and 2.7% in 2005. The inflation rate was low in 2006, with an annual average inflation rate of about 1.5%, but unemployment remains a stubborn problem. The inflation rate rose to 3.5% in December 2007. The unemployment rate held steady in recent years at about 5% and in 2005 reached 7.8%. Unemployment in 2007 reached 5.2%. Since the mid-1990s, Sweden's export sector has grown significantly as the information technology (IT) industry, telecommunications, and services have overtaken traditional industries such as steel, paper, and pulp. The overall current-account surplus has traditionally been much smaller than the merchandise trade balance, as Sweden has generally run a deficit on trade in services, net income flows, and unrequited transfers. However, since 2003 this has not been the case, as the services balance swung into surplus in 2003 and improved further in 2004 and 2005. In addition, the income account also swung from deficit into surplus in 2003, before slipping back to register small deficits in 2004 and 2005. Although the transfers balance remained in deficit, mainly as a result of Sweden's contributions to the EU budget, the overall current-account surplus was larger than the trade surplus in 2003-05. Most categories of services exports produced an improvement over this period, but the biggest contribution came from business services exports, followed by transportation and royalties and license fees.

During 2005 real GDP rose by 2.5%, 3.4% in 2006, and 2.9% (est.) in 2007. The government budget improved dramatically from a record deficit of more than 12% of GDP in 1993 to a surplus of 0.9% of GDP in 2006. The new, strict budget process with spending ceilings set by parliament, and a constitutional change to an independent Central Bank, have greatly improved policy credibility. This can be seen in the long-term interest rate margin versus the Euro, which is negligible. From the perspective of longer-term fiscal sustainability, the long-awaited reform of old-age pensions entered into force in 1999. This entails a far more robust system vis-a-vis adverse demographic and economic trends, which should keep the ratio of total pension disbursements to the aggregate wage bill close to 20% in the decades ahead. Taken together, both fiscal consolidation and pension reform have brought public finances back on a sustainable footing. Gross public debt, which jumped from 43% of GDP in 1990 to 78% in 1994, stabilized around the middle of the 1990s and has been decreasing in recent years. In 2007 public debt was about 35.6% of GDP. These figures show excellent improvement of the Swedish economy since the crisis of the early 1990s.

Eighty percent of the Swedish labor force is unionized. For most unions there is a counterpart employers' organization for businesses. The unions and employer organizations are independent of both the government and political parties, although the largest federation of unions, the National Swedish Confederation of Trade Unions (LO), always has maintained close links to the largest political party, the Social Democrats. There is no fixed minimum wage by legislation. Instead, wages are set by collective bargaining.

U.S. direct investment in Sweden in 2006 (January-September) was approximately $2.16 billion. There were major investments in computer software and hardware, IT/telecommunications, industrial goods, and health care.


Swedish foreign policy is based on the premise that national security is best served by staying free of alliances in peacetime in order to remain neutral in the event of war. In 2002, Sweden revised its security doctrine. The new security doctrine still states that “Sweden pursues a policy of non-participation in military alliances,” but permits cooperation in response to threats again