Kate Monk's Onomastikon

(Dictionary of Names)

Sweden (Sverige)

Capital : Stockholm

Älsborg län, Blekinge län, Gävleborgs län, Hallands län, Jämtlands län, Kristianstads län, Kronobergs län, Malmohus län, Norrbotten, Örebro län, Östergötlands län, Skaraborgs län, Södermanlands län, Västermanlands län, Svealand, Uppsala län, Värmlands län, Västerbottens län, Vasternorrlands län

Size: 174 000 sq m Popn: 8 678 000


The southern part of Sweden has been inhabited since around 6000 BC. During the Viking period, the Swedes concentrated on the Baltic and Kievan Russia with some becoming masters of Novgorod and Kiev. (They became slavicized but continued to make dynastic alliances with Scandinavia). The Swedes of the north were united with the Goths of the south at the end of the C11th under the kings of Uppland and became Christian. The southern coastal areas of Halland, Skane and Blekinge remained under Danish control. After a series of crusades from the C12th-14th, Finland came under Swedish rule.

Sweden joined Denmark, Norway and Finland in the Union of Kalmar (1397-1523) under a Danish monarch but broke away in 1523 to regain independence under Gustavus Vasa. He also broke with the Roman Catholic Church, adopted Lutheranism and began to improve the Swedish economy, army and navy. As the only permanently ice-free access to the North Sea was an 11-mile strip between Halland (Denmark) and Bohuslan (Norway) guarded by the fortress of Alvsborg, his position was unstable at first and the fortress fell to Danish invasions several times.

Sweden gained control of Alvsborg for a large ransom after the Seven Years' War of the North (1563-70), under Gustavus' sons, Eric XIV and John III, and was becoming a significant force within and without the Baltic region by 1581. Finland had been under Swedish control since the C14th and John III had married a Polish princess so their son became king of Poland as Sigismund III in 1587. When John died in 1592, he also inherited Sweden. This brought about a constitutional crisis and Sigismund was deposed by his uncle, Charles IX, inaugurating fifty years of open hostility between Poland and Sweden, already divided by conflicting interests in Livonia.

When Charles' son, Gustavus Adolphus, became king aged 17 in 1611, Sweden was surrounded by hostile states. Although his reign began with the setback of the loss of Alvsborg to Denmark, he regained it under the Peace of Knared in 1613. He gained large amounts of territory by his death in 1632 and expansion continued. Peace treaties included those of Stolbovo in 1617 and Westphalia in 1648. Under the Peace of Bromsebro, Sweden gained Gotland and Osel from Denmark and lands from Norway. Under the Peace of Roskilde, Sweden was granted Scania, Halland, Bohuslan, Blekinge and Bornholm from Denmark. By this stage, Sweden's enemies were combining against her and only the alliance with Louis XIV of France prevented territorial losses when Denmark started the Scanian War (1676-9).

As a result, the reign of Charles XI was rather cautious. He was succeeded in 1697 by his 15-year-old son, Charles XII, and in 1700 the Great Northern War began. This was to lead to a more powerful Russia and to destroy the power of Sweden and Poland despite Charles' early victory at Narva in the Gulf of Finland. Tsar Peter the Great recaptured Narva in 1704, defeated the Swedes at Poltava in 1709 and Russia gained Livonia, Estonia, Ingermanland Karelia and south east Finland in peace treaties from 1719-21. Most of the Swedish territories in Germany were divided between Hanover and the new state of Brandenburg-Prussia. War had left Sweden impoverished but there was a flowering of culture and science under Gustavus III (1771-91). Finland was lost to Russia in 1809 but Sweden annexed Norway from 1814-1905.

The country developed a tradition of neutrality and political stability and was one of the first countries to adopt a system of open government. The prime minister is nominated by the speaker of the Riksdag and confirmed by a vote of the whole house. He can then choose a cabinet but this is still responsible to the Riksdag. From 1951-76, the Social Democratic Labour Party was in power, sometimes as part of a coalition. Prime Minister Olaf Palme came to power in 1969 and introduced constitutional reforms which reduced parliament from two chambers to one in 1971 and removed the last of the monarch's constitutional powers in 1975. He was defeated in the 1976 elections over the issue of the high taxes necessary to fund the welfare system. A centre-right coalition was formed by ThorbjØrn F¬lldin, leader of the Centre Party but fell in 1978 due to its decision to pursue a non-nuclear energy policy. A liberal coalition took over but F¬lldin returned in 1979 and there was a narrow referendum majority in favour of a limited nuclear energy programme.

Olaf Palme's Social Democrats returned with a minority government in 1982 and were faced with worsening relations with the USSR due to suspected violations of Swedish territorial waters. The situation improved by 1985 but in February 1086, Palme was killed by an unknown assailant and his deputy, Ingvar Carlsson, took over. He was re-elected with a reduce majority in 1988 and for the first time, the Green Party won representation in the Riksdag but after mounting opposition to economic policies, the government resigned, leaving him as caretaker prime minister. In December 1990, the Riksdag supported the government's decision to apply for membership of the EC but Carlsson was defeated in the elections of September 1991. His was succeeded by a four-party minority coalition under Carl Bildt but in September 1992, the Conservatives and Social Democrats made an agreement to work together to improve the country's economy.

This collection of names was compiled by Kate Monk and is ©1997, Kate Monk.

Copies may be made for personal use only.

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