The Kingdom of Sweden, locally known as Konungariket Sverige, is a constitutional monarchy that is located in Northern Europe, along the Scandinavian Peninsula. Its largest city and the nation’s capital is Stockholm.
Sweden had its beginnings around 12,000 BC. The Swedes had been known to have powerful and fast longships that were capable of long journeys and manned by strong men. These men and their longships, called the Swedish Vikings or Rus, figured prominently in Nordic mythology. Their adventures and conquests were chronicled in runestones. The first piece of the literature of Sweden, the Rök Runestone, was discovered in a church in Östergötland in the 19th century and is on display near the church where it was found. While their ancestors may have been notorious in their voyages and conquest, today’s Swedes are peace-loving people. They have remained neutral in times of war.
The country is divided into 21 counties or län, which is govern by an appointed County Administrative Board or länsstyrelse. A Landshövding or Governor heads each county. The counties are further subdivided into “kommuner” or municipalities. These in turn are divided into parishes or församlingar in Swedish.
Sweden is known for its natural environment, its beautiful castles, its high standard of living, its powerful economy, its literature and music.
In this Country Profile
Foreign trade is the major backbone of Sweden’s economy, with the engineering sector accounting for almost half of the nation’s economy. Iron ore, hydropower and timber are major exports although telecommunications, pharmaceuticals and automotive industries are equally important. Volvo, IKEA, Sandvik, Ericsson, Electrolux, Atlas Copco and Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications AB are just some of the major companies operating in Sweden. Among developed countries, Sweden ranks third in having the lowest Gini coefficient, at 0.25, meaning low-income inequality is very minimal in the country. Its nominal GDP according to 2011 estimate was $538.237 billion, with an estimated GDP/PPP of $381.719 billion, giving a per capita GDP of $56,956 and $40,393, respectively. Its standard of living is enviable, assisted largely by the peace that prevails in the nation and its neutral position. It successfully combined extensive welfare benefits and highly technological capitalism. The country’s economy is supported by a distribution system that is very modern and efficient, its highly skilled labor force and its superior internal and external communication facilities and systems.
Music is a driving force in the arts scene of Sweden, with the likes of ABBA, Roxette, The Cardigans and Ace of Base being some of the highly recognized music sensations around the globe. Music producers like Max Martin created hits for Britney Spears, N’Sync and Backstreet Boys and had recently made a successful comeback producing hits for Katy Perry, Pink and Kelly Clarkson. Lady Gaga benefited from the genius of RedOne.
There were also several Swedes that graced Hollywood films, with the likes of Max von Sydow, Greta Garbo and Ingrid Bergman. Film producers include Lukas Moodysson, Ingmar Bergman and Lasse Hallström.
Sweden is the birthplace of Alfred Nobel, whose last name is carried by the coveted Nobel Prize. Swedish authors have received seven Nobel Prizes for Literature. Likewise, the country is the birthplace of widely known authors such as August Strindberg, Nobel laureate recipients Selma Lagerlöf, Pär Lagerkvist and Verner von Heidenstam. Emil and Pippi Longstocking, two famous children’s books, were written by Swedish author Astrid Lindgren and Millennium series author, Stieg Larsson also hailed from Sweden.
Sporting figures from Sweden include tennis stars such as Mats Wilander, Stefan Edberg, Björn Borg and Robin Söderling. Annika Sörenstam is a World Golf Hall of Fame member, while Ingemar Johansson belonged to the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
The country celebrates some unique traditions like the Midsummer to welcome the summer solstice; a spring festival called Walpurgis Night or Walpurgisnacht in Swedish, celebrated on April 30 or the first of May with the lighting of several bonfires and dancing; the feast day of Saint Lucia on December 13; 17 official flag days, several Namesdays every month throughout the year and kräftskivor or crayfish dinner parties in August.
Although more famous for nature tourism, Sweden does have its share of places to see. In Stockholm there is the Royal Palace or Kungliga Slottet, the Royal Chapel or Storkyrkan; the Nobel Museum, the Viking burial mounds in Gamla Uppsala and several memorials to the father of modern taxonomy, Carl von Linné. You could trace the Viking history and view over a hundred runestones in Sigtuna.
In the city of Gothenburg are several museums such as the Aeromuseum, the Gothenburg Museum of Art, the Röhskka Museum for European and Swedish handicraft and the Gothenburg City Museum where the focal point is the only surviving Viking ship in Sweden. If you are after some peace and quiet, the quaint fishing villages in Bohuslän provide the perfect atmosphere and plenty of picture-perfect photo opportunities.
Malmö is a modern city. This is where you would find the perfect view of the Öresund Bridge. The city is likewise the location of the 190-meter Turning Torso building, designed by Santiago Calatrava, which is a replica of his equally famous sculpture.
:: Brief History of Sweden ::
After the last glacial age, the ice that covered the area we now know as Sweden started to melt and evidence of human settlements were uncovered from the area showed their existent since 9000 BCE. From being hunters and fishermen, the settlers finally stayed and started agriculture as their primary source of income from the Stone Age, through the Bronze Age until the Iron Age.
Influences from neighboring countries shaped the culture of Sweden. The Hanseatic League of Germany influenced the trading system of the country. The court and the upper class society during the 18th century were heavily influenced by the French before Germany once again gained dominance in Sweden in the 19th century. Externally the country began its expansion when the Swedish Vikings started their explorations and trading. Their period lasted for 250 years.
In 1000 AD Christianity was introduced in the country as the provinces of Sweden became united into a single country. Pagan religions of the Nordic people were still tolerated for at least a century while Christianity gained a stronger foothold in Sweden.
Territorial expansion continued well into the 12th up to the 13th centuries and Sweden was able to take over Finland during this period. Under the rule of Queen Margareta of Denmark, Norway, Sweden as well as Denmark were united in 1389. The union lasted until 1521, when the Swedes rebelled because the Danish king of the union had 80 prominent Swedes executed due to political conflicts.
Sweden elected their own king, Gustav Vasa and their territorial expansion in the Baltic region made the country a mighty power to reckon with in the northern region of Europe. Things crumbled when Russia rose as a world superpower. It was able to take over Finland, which was originally a part of Sweden, and the other territories that Sweden conquered.
From being the conqueror, Sweden turned to peace and remained neutral during the course of the First and Second World Wars. It did provide support for Germany, Norway and Finland for rescue operations. A notable Swiss diplomat, Raoul Wallenberg, with the help of his colleagues was able to rescue more than 100,000 Hungarian Jews during the holocaust. Up to this day Sweden is known for the humanitarian efforts that it extends to those in need.
Modern agricultural systems were introduced during 1750 until about 1850. Before, a village consisted of properties close together, with a church, barns and houses. The cultivated farms belong to several families, some of them inherited from their parents and brought in by marriages. When modern agriculture was introduced, the farms were set farther apart and several villages had been split up. Farm lots became widely distributed. The method increased agricultural production but it did bring in another headache – increased population due to more people seeking employment in the farms. The dilemma soon escalated and some people were not lucky enough to own any farming land. Some were able to move to other areas that were being developed while others sought their luck abroad. From nearly 50% of the population engaged in farming activities, it lowered to 20% around the 1930s.
There was a mass exodus of Swedes in the latter part of the 19th century as well as the early part of the 20th century. It was however, countered by the number of immigrants who settled in Sweden, finding the area conducive to the way of life they were seeking and the availability of other jobs aside from agriculture. And they brought along their culture and traditions, which, through the years, were assimilated by the Swedes, creating a different brand of Swedish culture that we know today.
:: Geography of Sweden ::
Sweden is strategically located in the Danish Straits that link the North and Baltic Seas. It is situated in Northern Europe and has the Gulf of Bothnia, the Baltic Sea, Skagerrak Strait and the Kattegat Sea among its coastal borders, with land borders shared with Norway and Finland and a bridge and tunnel in the Øresund connecting Sweden to Denmark.
The country lies 62° 00’ North latitude and 15° 00’ East longitude, with Treriksröset as its extreme point in the north. The harbor of the fishing village of Smygehuk is its southernmost point. A marker at the harbor that marks the exact spot is now a tourist attraction. The islet of Kataja is the most extreme point eastward while its westernmost point is the islet of Stora Drammen.
Sweden, located in the Scandinavian Peninsula has a total area of 450,295 square kilometers, making the country marginally larger than the U.S. State of California. About 410,335 square kilometers is land while water surface covers 39,960 square kilometers. The country has close to 100,000 lakes.
Sweden’s longest land boundary is on its western side, which is shared with Norway. The total length is about 1,619 kilometers. The northeast is bounded by Finland for 614 kilometers.
The country is near the Gulf of Bothnia and the Baltic Sea, giving Sweden a 3,218-kilometer coastline. The Gulf of Bothnia lies to the east of Sweden while the Baltic Sea covers its southern coast.
Sweden shares maritime borders with Germany, Russia, Latvia, Denmark, Poland, Estonia and Lithuania and is linked to Denmark via the Öresund Bridge on its southwest section. Its territorial sea boundary is 12 nautical miles, with an exclusive economic zone on the midlines that had been agreed upon with its maritime neighbors. Its continental shelf is up to a depth of 200 meters.
With its temperature affected by the warm Gulf Stream, Sweden’s climate is generally temperate in its southern part, characterized by winters that are cold and cloudy. Summers in the south could be partly cloudy. The northern part of the country typically has subarctic temperatures in winter, with cool summers.
The Scandinavian mountain chain or the Skanderna is located in the western part of the country. Most of the land is heavily forested, with about 8% suitable for agricultural use. The rest of the country is composed of gently rolling flat and low lands. About 15% of the land in Sweden is located within the Arctic Circle, typical of those countries that are near or close to the North Pole.
Mount Kebnekaise, which is part of the Scandinavian mountain chain, is the highest point in Sweden. It rises to a height of 2,111 meters or about 6,926 feet. It is located in Lapland and quite close to the Arctic Circle. On the other hand, the bay of Lake Hammarsjön in Scania, is the lowest point of the country at -2.41 meters or -7.91 feet.
Uranium deposits in the country is believed to be equivalent to about 15% of the world’s total. The mineral-rich country also has large iron ore deposits as well as lead, gold, silver, zinc, feldspar, tungsten, copper and arsenic. With the numerous lakes and rivers in Sweden, it is also rich in hydropower. Majority of the land in Sweden is covered by thick forests, making timber one of its more valuable natural resources.
With about 15% of its land within the Arctic Circle and about 78% covered with thick forests, the arable land available for agriculture is about 5.93%, of which 0.01% is planted with permanent crops. The rest of the land is allocated for other uses.
Being close to the North Pole, and its elevation, Sweden has icy winters with thick snow cover, freezing most of the bodies of water within the country as well as the Gulf of Bothnia. Ice floes are natural hazards and severely affect maritime traffic in the Gulf.
Current Environmental Issues
Pollution of the Baltic Sea and the North Sea is an environmental issue that currently affects Sweden. Add to that the acid rain that causes damage to its bodies of water as well as its soils.
International Environmental Agreements
Although Sweden has signed all the selected international environmental agreements it chose to be party to, the country has yet to ratify any of these agreements. Sweden had signed agreements for Organic Compounds, Antarctic Treaty, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Biodiversity, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Environmental Modification, Ozone Layer Protection, Tropical Timber 83 and 94, Whaling, Wetlands, Marine Dumping, Law of the Sea and Ship Pollution. The country likewise signed international environmental agreements on Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Sulfur 85 and 94, Air Pollution-Volatile, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants and Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxide.
:: People of Sweden ::
People residing in Sweden are called Swedes, which is used for both male and female persons. Swedish is used as an adjective when describing Swede nationals.
According to official census done in 2011, the population of Sweden was 9,415,295. It has an annual population growth rate of 0.168% according to 2012 estimates. With its land area measuring close to 450,000 square kilometers making it the third largest country within the European Union, it has one of the smallest population densities. Accordingly, only about 21 residents live within a square kilometer. This translates to about 54 persons residing in each square mile of land space in Sweden. The country however has a net migration of 1.65 for every 1,000 residents, as of 2012 estimates.
People from ages 15 to 64 dominate in Sweden, holding a 64.8% share in the country’s population age structure. There are almost an equal number of males (2,982,268) and females (2,910,135) in the country. Those 65 years and over make up 19.7%, with 992,665 females against 800,169 males. The younger set, or those aged zero to 14 years make up the balance or 15.4%, with 722,558 males versus 680,933 females.
The median age of the Swedes is quite mature. For the whole population, the average is 42.2 years. In 2012, it is estimated that the median age of male Swedes is 41 years while it is 43.3 years for the females.
Birth and Death Rates
As of the estimates done in 2012, the birth rate for every 1,000 residents is 10.24. On the other hand the death rate is almost the same, estimated to be 10.21 for every 1,000 inhabitants.
In the sex ratio department, the males slightly edge the females from age zero until age 64, with the females edging the males at age 65 years and over. At birth, there are 1.06 males over one female. The ratio is the same for those under 15 years of age. At the 15-64 age bracket, the ratio becomes lower, with 1.02 male over one female, while the ratio become 0.81 male for one female for those that fall within the 65 years and over age group. For the entire population, the sex ratio is 0.98 male over a female.
Infant and Maternal Mortality Rate
For the whole country of Sweden the infant mortality rate is placed at 2.74 deaths for every 1,000 live births. When broken down by gender, the rate is higher for male infants, measured at 2.89 deaths for every 1,000 live births and only 2.57 deaths for female infants. On the other hand, maternal mortality rate is quite low, with 4 deaths for every 100,000 live births recorded in 2010.
Total Fertility Rate
As of 2012, it has been estimated that fertility rate in the country is only at 1.67 children born/woman.
Life Expectancy at Birth
The Swedes have a long life expectancy. For the entire nation, it is placed at 81.18 years. The females, at 83.63 years outlive the males whose life expectancy at birth is pegged at 78.86 years.
The occurrence of HIV/AIDS in Sweden, although still a problem is very low. Adult prevalence of the disease was estimated in 2009 to be 0.1%. According to the 2009 estimates, there are about 8,100 people living with HIV/AIDS while fewer than 100 deaths from the disease had been recorded that same year.
Although Sweden does not have any official statistics regarding ethnicity, the indigenous population in the country is divided into Swedes with Sami and Finnish minorities and first-generation or foreign-born immigrants composed of Danes, Finns, Norwegians, Greeks, Turks and Yugoslavs.
Most Swedes belong to the Lutheran Church (The Church of Sweden), comprising 87%, even if attendance to Sunday services is very low, registering only at two percent. Other religions are also practiced, with 13% being members of Jewish, Muslim, Orthodox, Buddhist, Baptist and Roman Catholic churches.
Swedish is the official language, spoken by about 87% of the population. It is similar to the Norwegian and Danish languages and the Swedes are able to easily understand these languages even if there are differences in orthography and pronunciation. Finnish, Romani, Sami, Yiddish and Meänkieli are recognized as minority languages. Spanish, German and French are taught or are beings studied as a second language in Sweden. Most of the older generation speak and understand English because of the frequency of foreign travel after the Second World War, their trade activities among English-speaking countries and the widespread use of English subtitles in foreign films. English is now a compulsory subject in school.
Sweden has a very high literacy rate, measured at 99%. Children from age one to age five are guaranteed enrolment in the country’s public kindergarten. From age six until sixteen, all children attend the compulsory comprehensive school. Almost all graduates (90%) of the ninth grade continue to get a three-year gymnasium level or upper secondary school. After graduation, they could either get a job or continue with their university studies.
:: References ::