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Nordic FAQ - 2 of 7 - NORDEN
Section - 2.5 Introduction to the History of Norden

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   Once upon a time, a very long time ago, as the ice-cap already for
   long had continued its slow and irregular retraction up to the North,
   Europe was inhabited by mammoths, bears, bisons, reindeers and woolly
   ...and some hunting families of humans.
   The first recognizable event was when a culture in southwestern Europe
   seems to have concentrated very much on the reindeers. In the cave
   paintings in France and Spain from over 15'000 years ago we can see
   the people knew how to use bows and arrows.
   After year 9'000 B.C. the climate of Europe changed, and the reindeers
   came to remain only in the farthest North, along the ice-cap which
   still covered what today is Finland, Norway and the most of Sweden
   in-between. Also Scotland had for long time a glacier remnant of the
   The Creator hadn't yet constructed the Danish straits or the English
   Channel, and hence there was land connection from Scotland and the
   Scandinavian ice-border in Västergötland all the way to the Ural
   mountains and beyond.
   Most of Europe passed on to the Middle Stone Age (marked for instance
   by the invention of saws); in the fertile crescent along River Tigris,
   and along the Palestinian coast, crops began to be planted and sown.
   As we all know, the Agrarian Revolution in the fertile crescent came
   in due time to lead forward to
     * domestication of goats, sheep, pigs & cattle
     * knowledge to polish the stone tools
     * knowledge to produce fired pottery
   ...and later:
     * usage of slash-and-burn (or wood burning) technique
   And this latter technique came to be spread from the Black Sea along
   River Danube, through Central Europe almost to the coast of
   present-day Holland, Germany & Poland. The people utilizing the wood
   burning technique could populate the land much more densely than their
   hunting and gathering neighbors, thus it is commonly believed that the
   migration of the slash-and-burn knowledge represents a real migration
   and propagation of a wood-burning people.
   These migrants are commonly acknowledged as Indo-Europeans. At the
   border of their expanding culture some of the neolithic novelties got
   adopted: hence, pottery and polished stone tools were used by the
   pre-neolithic cultures along the North Sea and along the southernmost
   Baltic shores, as among the Ertebølle folk of Denmark. That's how our
   forefathers learned to polish stone tools and to fire pottery
   approximately 4,500 B.C.
   At this time the coast- and lake-region of Finland was inhabited by
   nomadic people using Russian flint-stone, pottery and polished stone
   Two thousand years later the Indo-European culture had made further
   progress, approximately to the River Vistula in North-East and in
   Scandinavia to the River Dalälven and up along most of the Norwegian
   Meanwhile, high cultures with towns and irrigation had emerged in
   Mesopotamia, Egypt and the Indus valley.
   Then, around year 2,000 B.C. the know-how of copper-working (which for
   thousands of years only slowly had expanded from Turkey and the
   fertile crescent) now in a high speed became known in all of the world
   inhabited by Indo-Europeans. And Indo-European cultures seem to have
   expanded from River Vistula all the way up to Gulf of Finland and
   River Volga. Grain and cattle became a complement to hunting for
   people living along the waters.
   (This was, by the way, the time of the Palace Culture of Crete.)
   For the following years, 2,000 B.C. - 200 B.C., the map of cultures in
   Northern Europe looks almost static:
     * In the North there are proto-Sámis hunting and moving all the way
       from the Ural mountains to the Norwegian coast.
     * From Gulf of Finland to River Volga there are proto-Finns,
     * and south of them Indo-European Balts and Slavs.
     * Denmark, Pomerania and the south-western Scandinavian peninsula
       were inhabited by proto-Germanic people.
     * In the South the domain of the Celts was south of River Elbe,
       stretching to the Pyrenées, to the Mediterranean and over the Alps
       and the Carpats.
   (Despite important ideas continue to spread in the same well known
   South-East to North-West direction.)
   Bronze working was learned by the Slavs, the Balts, the Germanics, the
   Estonian Finns and the Sámis around year 1,500 B.C.
   Then around year 1,000 B.C. the new technique of iron-working had
   begun to expand out of its original area in Turkey. A process mirrored
   in the tales from ancient Greece and in the Old Testament of the
   Bible. And the Aryans conquered the Indus valley.
   It came, however, to last until year 500 B.C. till this knowledge
   reached beyond the Celts' northern border.
   The times were turbulent east of the Mediterranean. In the 9th
   century B.C. the Assyrians flourished with trade and genocide. Around
   year 600 B.C. Egypt falls for Assyria, then Assyria falls for Persia
   constituting a realm from Indus to Italy, where they were stooped by
   Etruscs and Cartagians. Monotheism is advocated by Zaratustra in
   Persia, and by the Prophet Jesaia (the second), during the 6th
   century B.C.
   During the 4th century Alexander the Great conquers Persia, and then,
   after his death, his realm is split in several large parts, whereafter
   Rome starts to expand.
   Then the Germanic culture began a slow expansion in southern
   direction: At year 100 B.C. the woods of Central Europe were home to
   both several Germanic tribes as well as to Celtic tribes, but in the
   North the Germanics dominated from Trondheim and Åland to the plains
   between River Rhine and River Neiße.
   The Roman Empire expanded through France; the Celtic area diminished
   and disappeared, and Germanic peoples became a major hassle for the
   Roman Army. The solution was in the long run that Germanic men came to
   take over the administration of the Empire and its armies at the same
   time as the Germanics were Romanized in culture, beliefs and language.
   As the Celts' dominance over Western Europe dissolved, the influences
   from the Mediterranean region again reached the Baltic Sea and
   Scandinavia. Trade with the Roman Empire increased, and might have
   contributed to the peculiar phase of the European history called the
   Migration Period when Germanic tribes and Asian tribes came to move
   around on the European continent.
   But before that the Slavs had started to expand. First in the East,
   along the River Dnieper, at the expense of the Balts, and then to the
   River Don and to upper River Volga.
   Around the turn of millennium, good iron was produced at the
   Oslo-fjord in southern Norway; at the same time, some important
   Germanic tribes inhabited the coasts of North Sea and the Baltic Sea,
   and the shores of the rivers:
     * Gepids around River Vistula
     * Goth around River Oder
     * Burgundians further south between the rivers Oder & Vistula
     * Marcomanni further south, around the upper River Elbe
     * Frisians at the North Sea coast between the rivers Elbe and Rhine
   Then, around year A.D. 200, the Goths and the Gepids moved down from
   the coast, through (?) the Burgundian area, toward River Danube. The
   Goths expanded over River Volga to River Don.
   Concurrently the Norsemen increased in number also in the very
   Scandinavia, expanding along the water routes between Norway and
   Jutland was the richest territory as that was the key position from
   where all Scandinavian and Baltic trade to and from Rome and the Rhine
   valley could be controlled. The people on Gotland, the Guthes (Gutar),
   dominated the Baltic sea and its trade. [ We are not(!) taking any
   stand in the discussion whether Jutes, Guthes and Goths are
   etymologically equivalents. In any case: these people came to inhabit
   different areas and to constitute different peoples. ]
   The Goths were split in a lesser part, the Visigoths, who later came
   to create a kingdom on the Iberian peninsula, and the Ostrogoths who
   for a long time came to dominate all of the land between River Don and
   River Oder.
   Beside the Goths and the Norsemen there existed more than a dozen of
   distinguishable Germanic tribes:
     * Jutes and Angles on Jutland
     * Frisians, Franks, Burgundians and Allemans on the eastern side of
       River Rhine
     * Saxons, Thuringians, Lombards and Marcomanni on both sides of
       River Elbe
     * Vandals, Rugians, Gepids and Visigoths north of River Danube
   During early 4th century the Goths were Christianized, and from
   A.D. 325 the Bible is translated to Gothic. The Goths were however
   Arian Christians, and not Catholics as the Franks would become.
   Then the Huns came from the East, defeating almost any enemy. In the
   370s the Ostrogoths and soon also the Visigoths started a great move.
   The Visigoths went through Greece, along the Adriatic Coast to Naples
   and Rome and further to Spain where they defeated the Vandals (who had
   arrived five years before). The Vandals moved on to what today is
   As the Ostrogoths and the Huns had moved on, it turned out that the
   Slavs popped up as the successors after the abdicated Ostrogothian
   lords. While the Baltic languages and culture almost disappeared, the
   Slavic area now greatly increased. After the Huns are defeated, Slavic
   tribes are identified along the southern Baltic shore, in all of the
   area east of River Elbe and (beside Magyars) in the area east of the
   Examples of these nowadays almost forgotten names are:
    Finnic tribes:
     * Karelians at lake Ladoga and further north
     * Votes at river Narva
     * Estonians in present day Estonia
     * Livonians at Gulf of Riga
    Baltic tribes:
     * Curonians (as in Curland/Kurland) at Gulf of Riga
     * Lithuanians at the rivers Neman & Dvina
     * Notangians at river Pregola
     * Prussians at, and east of, River Vistula
       (had migrated from the Neman/Dvina area circa 200 A.D.)
     * (other Baltic tribes there around had names as
       Jotwings/Jatvingians, Lettigallians, Notangians, Samen, Schalauer,
       Schamaiten, Selens & Semigallians)
    Slavic tribes:
     * Novgorods in North-East, at Lake Ilmen.
     * Pomeranians between the Rivers Oder & Vistula
     * Poles around River Warta (between Vistula & Oder) (actually they
       were sooner half a dozen of tribes, united around year 1.000 A.D.
       with names as Polanes, Vislanes, Slenzanes, Opolinis and others)
     * Wends/Sorbs around the rivers Neiße & Saale (between upper Oder &
     * Abodritic/Obodritic tribes at the Baltic coast (between lower Oder
       & Elbe)
     * Czech tribes south of the Sudeten mountains
     * Daleminci at River Elbe in present day Saxony.
   During the 6th century the Gutar from Gotland island established
   colonies at the eastern shore of the Baltic sea, for instance at the
   estuary of River Dvina. Later, in the 9th century, Curland/Courland
   was conquered by Swedish Vikings.
   In western Europe the Franks conquered all the land from River Rhine
   to the Pyrenées; the Angles and a lot of Jutes and Saxons conquered
   England; and the Langobards came to conquer the Ostrogothian realm in
   today's Yugoslavia and Italy.
   In eastern Scandinavia, the Uppland region north of Lake Mälaren
   (Roslagen - the Rus people) increased its dominance. ...a dominance
   which has been held ever since. Gutar, Götar, Finns and Sámis
   constitute contemporary cultures.
   In southern Scandinavia the Danes dominated. Saxo Grammaticus tells,
   if we ought to confide in his tales, that Saxonians and Slavs from
   time to time paid tributes to Danish kings. According to Saxo also
   Scania, Gotland, Värmland, Jämtland and Hälsingland in present-day
   Sweden were lands of the Danes, although usually not under a common
   Then, during the 8th century Muslims conquered the Germanic realms on
   Africa's northern coast and on the Iberian peninsula. Left was the
   region of Franks, which after a split in the 9th century came to
   constitute the states of France and Germany.
   At this time trade through Russia to the muslim Persia became
   important. The Russian waterways are dominated by Svear and Gutar
   (Svenonians and Guths) called Varyagi or Varangians by the Slavs, and
   according to written sources present at the Sea of Azov in 739 A.D.
   The castles in Russia evolve to separate kingdoms and get
   With Christianity (if not before) Germanic lords began to conquer many
   lands inhabited by Slavs, Balts and Estonians/Finns claiming supremacy
   - but as constituting a minute minority often soon assimilated.
   ...but with the arrival of Christian religion, the prehistoric era
   ends, and so does this tale.

[ the sections above are available at the www-page ]

  2.5.1 Norden in prehistoric times
   Ice has covered almost all of Norden most of the last 500,000 years.
   Exceptionally there have been four inter glacial periods, each
   extending 10,000-15,000 years. The latest period of ice-withdrawal
   started some 13,000 years ago. (And hence we can expect most of Norden
   to again become covered with ice within some 2,000 years.)
   The pre-history of Norden literally starts when the ice withdrew. Very
   little has been found from earlier interglacial periods. (Actually a
   piece of south eastern Jutland never got covered by the ice during the
   last ice-time, and there traces of human living have been found and
   dated to an approximate age of a hundred thousand years - but that was
   The Exception until a recent finding of a cave in Finland used as a
   human dwelling some 100,000 years ago.) Iceland seems not to have been
   populated before Viking time - but mind you! The first colonizer then
   arrived from Ireland and not from Scandinavia.
   13,000 years ago hunting and fishing people left traces along rivers
   and lakes in Denmark and Scania. And from around 8,000 B.C. hunters
   have dwelled also in western and northern Scandinavia; and in Finland
   which started to pop up through the sea.
   Up to this time there had been a continuous land connection from
   Britain to Scania, but now (5,500 B.C.) Norden develops into a huge
   archipelago. Finland emerged as the archipelago on the coast of
   northern Russia and keeps culturally connected with Russia.
   Like-wisely Denmark and the southern Scandinavian peninsula keeps
   connected with western and central Europe. Along the coast of Norway
   hunters persist more or less isolated.
   Around 5,000 B.C. pottery came into use, indicating new methods to
   store food (Ertebølle culture); and marks of wheat in the pottery
   suggest the beginning of agriculture, however established archaeology
   defines the Ertebølle culture as a hunter/gatherer culture which came
   to persist for centuries beside the agricultural villages of the
   Pit-pottery (trattbägar) culture.
   Agriculture is believed to have reached Denmark and the southern
   Scandinavian peninsula approximately 4,200 B.C. with wood-burning
   technique, wheat, barley, sheep, goats, pigs and cows. [ This, and
   many other datings, is disputed. A recent Danish scholarly work says
   4,000 B.C. while a recent Swedish work says agriculture was introduced
   in southernmost Scandinavia around 3,000 B.C. ]
   The megalithe graves are the most visible trace of our prehistoric
   ancestors, erected 3,700-2,300 B.C. in Denmark and on the southern
   Scandinavian peninsula. During this period of over a thousand years
   the agricultural megalithe societies seem to have co-existed with
   coastal hunters and fishers; obvious at least in Denmark, Scania,
   along the Swedish west coast, and at lake Mälaren west of Stockholm.
   These hunters/fishers stood in contact with Gotland and Eastern
   Europe, agriculture was not entirely unknown to them and they had
   domesticated swine. In other words: It is important not to take these
   classifications and datings too literally. [ A large recent Swedish
   work dates the megalithe graves to 2,500-1,500 B.C. ]
   Agriculture was introduced along the fjords of southern Norway about
   year 2,500 B.C. At the same time a new mode for burying was introduced
   in southern Scandinavia and southern Finland. Unburned corpses in
   sleeping position, always followed by the battle-axe, and without
   stones or similar signs on the ground above. The battle-axe culture
   followed rivers and lakes, where before the Ertebølle and the
   Pit-pottery people had dwelled.
   We do not take a position in the dispute whether a change of pottery
   type or burying technique indicate a migration of people or only of
   The battle-axes of stone were initially made after the model of bronze
   axes, very true imitation indeed including the seam of the mould in
   which the bronze axe was cast. The agricultural districts preserved
   their megalithe culture for some time, and then it seems as the
   cultures merged. It is believed that this change in the archaeological
   findings more likely represents a true immigration of people instead
   of a diffusion of ideas and beliefs. If so, it also seems plausible
   that horses and the wheel were introduced by these battle-axe people.
   Around year 2,000 B.C. trade increased. Copper and bronze items
   followed dead chieftains into their graves. With increasing trade it
   didn't last long until bronze (the alloy of copper and tin) was
   produced in Denmark and on the Scandinavian peninsula. The metals
   themselves must however be imported. In exchange for the imported
   copper and tin export of amber and furs and maybe slaves must be
   The Bronze age is dated to the years 1,800-500 B.C. in Denmark, and
   1,500-500 B.C. in Sweden and Finland. Bronze age did barely reach
   Norway or the central parts of Scandinavia and Finland, where the life
   seems to have continued as before.
  2.5.2 Iron Age
   Around year 100 B.C. Lombards are believed to have migrated from
   Scania to Jutland and then further to the area of lower River Elbe,
   from where they attacked Roman Provinces for the following hundreds of
   years, ...until it was time for the great re-settlement of the
   Migration Period. The Lombards finally came to find a warmer sun in
   Lombardy in Italy.
    Western Scandinavia 3rd to 5th century
   Around the turn of millennium, good iron was produced at the
   Oslo-fjord in southern Norway. During the 3rd century A.D. the Iron
   Age Culture begins to spread from the Oslo fjord region, expanding
   along the water routes between Norway and Jutland. (Some scholars
   propose that a tribe with good knowledge of Iron-making thus gained
   military advantages and expanded to the south from the Oslo-fjord
   area. Basing their theories on place names, some even propose that
   these were the Danes, and that the Danes finally reached to
   present-day Svealand in their expansion along the Baltic Sea. In late
   5th century the Lake Mälaren region was reported to be subordinate to
   Danish kings.)
   In any case: at the 5th century it seems as the area from Southern
   Norway to Jutland is dominated by related tribes, the "Danes"
   - the flatlanders.
    Eastern Scandinavia 5th to 8th century
   In late 5th century the Lake Mälaren region was reported to be
   subordinate to Danish kings, but then Svenonians (Svear) emerge as
   dominating tribe north of Lake Mälaren. Guths (Gutar on Gotland),
   Goths (Götar west and south of Lake Mälaren), Finns (in the East) and
   Sámis (in the North) constitute contemporary cultures. The people on
   Gotland, the Guthes (Gutar), dominated the Baltic sea and its trade.
   The agriculture was improved, and the size of farms became more
   diverse. On Gotland the arable fields were enclosed by stone walls,
   and almost all the common lands were split too.
    Western Scandinavia 6th to 11th century
   Danes inhabit western & southern Scandinavia including Jutland. They
   trade with West-Rome and Germans via the Rhine estuary. Jutland was
   the richest territory as that was the key position from where all
   Scandinavian and Baltic trade to and from Rome and the Rhine valley
   could be controlled. Danes (including people from present-day Norway
   and Scania) have a stronghold in England and Ireland which is lost to
   the romanized Normands in 1066.
    Eastern Scandinavia 8th to 11th century
   Svear and Gutar dominate trade with East-Rome and the islamic Persia
   along water-ways in Russia. The castles along the trade routes evolve
   to separate kingdoms and get Christianized.

[ the sections above are available at the www-page ]

  2.5.3 Where did the Vikings go?
   There came to develop clearcut borders between the zones of interest
   for Norwegian, Danish and Svea Vikings. Below the main routes for the
   Viking trades are given with the modern names in some cases
   supplemented with the old Norse names.
   The Danes dominated
     * England between York and London (Danelagen),
     * Normandie,
     * Holland
     * and the southern coast of the Baltic sea between Jutland and
       Gdansk with Stettin/Szczecin (Jomsborg) as the main port to the
     * trade contacts with the Mediterian area - both indirect over the
       continent and direct through the Gibraltar.
       The Norwegians travelled to
     * Iceland,
     * the Faroe Islands,
     * Ireland,
     * Scotland
     * and Wales.
     * Like also the Danes they kept trade contacts with the cities of
       the Mediterian Sea.
       The Svear went to what today is Russia (Gårdarike):
     * via the seas Ladoga and Onega to the river Volga and all the way
       over the Caspic Sea to the flourishing Islam Persia.
     * via Riga and the river Dvina/Düna to Smolensk.
     * via Petersburg and the rivers Neva and Volkhov to Novgorod
     * from Novgorod and Smolensk they followed the river Volga to Kiev
       (Könugård) and further over the Black Sea to Istanbul (Micklagård)
       in the Byzantian Empire where the first written source reports
       Varangians in the Emperor's guard year 837.
  2.5.3b Place names in Old Norse
   The Vikings had Norse names on a lot of towns and markets, of which a
   few still might be heard. The following list is far from complete:

Vendland       Pommerania
Jomsborg       Stettin
Haithabu       Hedeby  (near Slesvig)
Saxland        between Rhine & Elbe
Dorestad       Utrecht
Bretland       Britanic islands
Valland        Flanders
Norva sund     Strait of Gibraltar
Sikelø         Sicily
Särkland       Persia
Miklagård      Istanbul
Gårdarike      between Volga & Black Sea
Könugård       Kijev
Holmgård       Novgorod

  2.5.4 What about those horned Viking helmets?
   Surprising though it may sound, the Vikings have never worn even the
   tiniest little horns in their helmets. Viking helmets did sometimes
   have neat figures and all kinds of decorations, but not horns. There
   are some Danish bog-findings of ritual helmets that do have metal
   horns in them, but these date from the Bronze age -- some 2000 years
   before the Vikings.
   The idea has its roots in the art of the Romantic period -- first half
   of the 19th century -- when the artists started to introduce native
   myths and legends in painting and sculpture instead of Greco-Roman
   ones. But since archaeology as a science didn't really even exist yet,
   they had a very poor idea of what sort of equipment the heroes of the
   sagas had used. So they used their creative imagination. Later,
   despite the fact that we now know we now know better, the myth has
   been further popularized by Hollywood movies and comics such as Hagar
   the Horrible, and nowadays a "Viking" is almost by definition "someone
   who wears a pair of horns in his head".

[ the sections above are available at the www-page ]

  2.5.5 Common Nordic History; Medieval times
    Western Scandinavia 1066-1319
   Denmark and Norway are separate kingdoms. Christian faith is
   established. Denmark is heavily engaged along the southern and eastern
   shores af the Baltic Sea competing with Slavic Viking-like tribes and
   later with Germans. The Germans grow in strength and come through the
   Hanseatic League to dominate both the Baltic and the North Seas.
    Eastern Scandinavia 1164-1319
   Christian faith is established. Trade through Russia is no longer
   possible. Agriculture increase in importance. Finland and Norrland is
   incorporated in the Swedish realm (the question of when Götaland was
   united with Svealand is complicated). The Hanseatic League compete
   successfully with the Guthnish and Swedish traders. The League
   establish Visby on Gotland as a major Hanseatic town.
    Western & Eastern Scandinavia 1319-1521/1536
   The Hanseatic League dominates all of Norden. The modern feudalism has
   led to splitted realms both in Sweden (1310-19) and Denmark (1320-40)
   and is countered by centralistic tendencies by king Magnus Eriksson of
   Sweden, King Valdemar Atterdag of Denmark, and his daughter Queen
   Margrete of Norway. The high aristocracy does of course obstruct. The
   kingdoms are several times united in personal unions.
   Danish kings struggle with Swedish magnates over the relation to
   Germany. The Swedes (and Norwegians?) prioritize trade, the kings want
   to fight first and trade then.
  2.5.6 Christian and pre-Christian laws
   The Christianization of Scandinavia came in particular to influence
   the law-system. The written recording of laws was probably introduced
   by arch-bishop Absalon in Lund, who at the university in Paris around
   year 1150 had studied not only theology and philosophy but also laws
   and political science.
   In the 12th and 13th century the papal administration showed a great
   interest in secular laws, and now we are grateful for this, since the
   archives in Rome have some of our earliest sources. The conflict
   between pope and emperor in Europe was mirrored also in Scandinavia.
   The church had three major demands: Investiture, tax exemption and
   internal jurisdiction (i.e. secular immunity) for priests.
   Year 1200 the Swedish king agreed on the latter two points, but as
   with the German emperor 100 years before the royal (noble) custom to
   appoint bishops (and priests) remained. 1258 it was agreed that
   priests were to be ordained by bishops.
   From year 1200 we also have the first source claiming royal right to
   make and change laws. King Knud VI in Denmark proclaimed issues of
   maintenance of internal peace, as manslaughter, to be within his
   authority according to the Church's laws and teachings. The Things
   argued however that the king's power was limited to suspending laws in
   case they are in direct violation of God's commandments.
   Marriage was a topic where Christian laws differed much from the older
   Germanic. Prior men had become independent of their fathers at
   puberty, but women were subordinated to their husband, their father or
   their brothers. With Christianity the bride's consent was demanded for
   marriage, prohibiting also the formerly customary marriage by capture,
   as well as concubines.
   Dowry and bride price (the latter paid at the betrothing) remained
   customary. Divorces, which prior had been an equal right of booth
   spouses, without demands on certain causes, were also prohibited.

[ the sections above are available at the www-page ]

  2.5.7 Modern Nordic history
    Western Scandinavia 1536-1645
   After a civil war 1534-36 the Hanseatic Leaugue lost its influence in
   the Danish realm. Lutheran Reformation follows. Norway is formally
   incorporated. Until the Thirty Years' War Denmark keeps her position
   as the leading power of Norden.
    Eastern Scandinavia 1521-1560
   Lutheran Reformation contributes to the creation of a National State
   in Sweden with a strong central administration and a king independent
   of the nobility and the pope.
    Eastern Scandinavia 1560-1660
   Territorial gains in Germany, the Baltic lands and in Scandinavia. The
   state administration gets controlled by the nobility.
    The Thirty Years' War 1618-1648
   The Thirty Years' War results in a radically weakened Holy Roman
   Empire of the German Nation. After an unsuccessful mission in the
   early phase of the war Denmark keeps out of it, and does not gain any
   direct favors from Germany's weakness. Sweden have more luck in the
   war, and comes out of it as Europe's leading Lutheran Power.
    Western Scandinavia 1645-1814
   Denmark (with Norway) lose several provinces to Sweden, and after
   having been literally threatened by eradication in 1658 and having
   lost its richest province, Scania, the High Nobility is deemed unfit
   for governing the realm and Royal Autocracy is enforced. Denmark
   balances between revanchism and careful foreign policy aimed at peace
   with the strengthened Sweden. After several unsuccessful attempts to
   regain at least Scania, and after Sweden again is weakened after 1709,
   Denmark (with Norway) experience a peacful century until the
   Napoleonic wars hit also Denmark, leeding to Norway 1814 being ceeded
   to Sweden (75% of the realm's territory, however only a minute
   proportion of its population and tax-incomes).
    Eastern Scandinavia 1660-1808
   Successive losses of territories in south eastern Finland and outside
   of Fennoscandia. The nobility's position is step by step weakened.
   Royal Autocracy is enacted by the Estates in 1680. After the
   disastrous war with Russia 1700-1721 the government is taken over by
   the Estates, and then again in 1771-1809 succeeded by Royal Autocracy.
    Nortern Scandinavia 1809-1918
   Sweden lose the eastern half of the realm to Russia. Revolution in
   Sweden: Governmental power is shared by king and Estates. Finland as a
   Grand Duchy ruled by the Emperor of Russia gets isolated from the rest
   of Norden.
   Rest-Sweden is in personal union with Norway 1814-1905, whereafter the
   union is peacefully abolished and Norway again a totally independent
   kingdom of its own.
    Southern Scandinavia 1814-1901
   Social, educational and constitutional reforms in Denmark. The Royal
   Authocracy is abolished in 1848. In 1864 also Schleswig, Holstein and
   Lauenburg are lost to Prussia.
    20th century
     * Norway gains independency from Sweden; Finland gains independency
       from Russia; and Iceland gains independency from Denmark.
       Greenland, the Faroe Islands and the Åland islands get self rule.
     * Parliamentarism, democracy and great social reforms are introduced
       in all Nordic states.
     * Norden is spared from the First World War, however Finland
       experience a bitter and bloody Civil War between Reds and Whites
       parallel with the War in Russia between Reds and Whites after the
       Communist Revolution.
     * Denmark and Norway are occupied during World War II. Finland is
       involved in two wars with Russia (the second in co-operation with
       Germany) and then another war to chase German troops out of
       Northern Finland.
     * Norway and Denmark joins Nato. Denmark, Sweden and Finland joins
       the European Union.

[ the sections above are available at the www-page ]

  2.5.8 Political history & cooperation
   The forming of what we today know as the Nordic countries is a rather
   complex historical process. This is also the reason why it's not a
   very tight unit. While the common cultural heritage and even political
   unions of the Nordic peoples go well beyond the Renaissance, a
   conscious supra-national identity is a relatively recent development.
   After the splitting up of the Kalmar Union in early 16th century,
   Sweden (with Finland) and Denmark (with Norway) remained arch-enemies
   for almost three hundred years, fighting each other for the dominance
   of Scandinavia. Political cooperation was for the most part out of the
   In the learned circles of the late 18th century, however, a movement
   known as Scandinavism started to spread with the growing realization
   of national identity on one hand and common cultural heritage on the
   other hand. At first this was limited to promoting cultural exchange,
   but in the 1830s a political Scandinavism was born among the students
   of Sweden and Denmark; it aimed to create a Nordic defense alliance
   and even to unite the countries as a single state.
   King Oskar I of Sweden, who was an enthusiastic Scandinavist,
   supported Denmark when the country was subjected to strong political
   pressure from Prussia in 1848-49, which increased the popularity of
   Scandinavism in Denmark. During the Crimean War of 1853-56 efforts
   were made to get Finns to embrace Scandinavism and Sweden planned to
   liberate Finland from the yoke of the Russian Empire so that it could
   rejoin the Scandinavian family, but at that time Finns were quite
   content with their autonomy and didn't show much enthusiasm for
   Political Scandinavism collapsed by and large in 1864 when Denmark was
   attacked by Prussia and Austria. Although the reigning Swedish King
   Karl XV was an advocate of Scandinavism, the Riksdag (the Swedish
   parliament which had grown in power) had a more sceptical attitude,
   and decided not to send any troops to aid the Danes. In addition to
   this, the Norwegian independence movement started to cause tension
   between Norwegians and Swedes.
   Thus the dreams of a unified Scandinavia were abandoned, and
   Scandinavism came to be focused on cultural and economic cooperation,
   standardizing legislation and acting together in international
   conferences. This cooperation has continued up to this date, although
   the word "Scandinavism" itself is no longer used.
    So, how then do the Nordic countries cooperate today?
   The main Nordic cultural and political organs are the Norden-societies
   in each country (founded in Swe/No/Dk in 1919, in Iceland in 1922,
   Finland 1924, Faroes 1955, Åland 1970), their umbrella organization
   (founded in 1965), the Nordic Minister Council (1971), and most
   importantly the Nordic Council (1952/1956), through which free
   movement of labour, passport-free travel and common legislation have
   been introduced in the Nordic countries. A similar political profile
   has led all the Nordic countries to develop into welfare states with a
   high social security and a high standard of living.
   Behind the political cooperation lie the factors that have enabled it
   in the first place. These include common cultural background,
   linguistic relationship, shared history, religion and geography. With
   the exception of religion, none of them is fully shared by all five
   countries, but even so, there are more things that unite us than ones
   that separate us.
   In 1946 Scandinavian Airlines Systems, SAS, was founded in cooperation
   between the states of Denmark, Norway and Sweden.
    I've heard the Scandinavian countries failed to agree on a union in the
   That's correct. Actually three times. First in October 1939 the Nordic
   kings and presidents met to discuss the serious situation at the eve
   of the World War. Soviet's demand on Finnish territory was one of the
   main problems discussed, and the Finns must have hoped for guarantees
   from the other states for support against the Russian threats. But the
   result was the opposite. Each state declared its intention to follow a
   strict policy of neutrality, which was the same as telling the Soviet
   Union that none of the other Nordic countries would interfere in the
   Soviet-Finnish conflict.
   Then after the Winter War 1939-40 between the Soviet Union and Finland
   a regular union was discussed for Sweden and Finland - like the
   personal union 1814-1905 between Sweden and Norway. But the Soviet
   Union didn't like the idea.
   Finally after the second world war a defense alliance was planned
   between Norway, Denmark and Sweden. (Finland's participation was again
   vetoed by the Soviet Union.) But the Norwegians' bad impression of the
   19th-century union with Sweden was the obstacle on which the idea
   fell. Instead Norway took up discussions with the USA about
   participation in the planned NATO, and soon also Denmark followed.
    Was that for the first time after the split of the Kalmar-union?
   Well, actually there was a Currency-union between Denmark, Norway and
   Sweden 1873-1914 with the purpose to make trading easier. And people
   who are careful with the notions would maybe object that the last
   trace of the Kalmar-union lasted until 1944 when Iceland declared its
   independence from Denmark. :->
   But otherwise you are right. The personal union 1814-1905 between
   Norway and Sweden was not at all voluntary from the side of the
   Norwegians, and before that the idea of a Nordic union had been stone
   dead since the 16th century.
    How come the Kalmar-union was ever accepted?
   It wasn't.  :->>
   It was the result of a long and complicated chain of coincidences:
     * The Hanseatic League had become a superior power in the Baltic sea
       region. Their strategy was always to support the second strongest
       part in every conflict, thereby contributing to the political
     * The first years of the 14th century were particularly unstable.
       Norway's King Håkon Hålegg, who recently had gained superiority
       over Iceland, supported the Swedish Duke Erik in an alliance
       against Denmark and the Swedish King Birger.
     * To make a long history short: Sweden was split in three Duchies;
       King Birger imprisons the dukes when they visit him for a
       Christmas party; the dukes are left to starve to death; the king
       is chased out of the country; the Crown-Prince is executed; King
       Håkon of Norway dies; and his grandson, the three years old son of
       Duke Erik, is appointed King Magnus of Norway - and Sweden; his
       mother rules as regent until she starts a war against Denmark;
       then she gets disposed.
     * While the Danish kingdom temporarily was weakened King Magnus
       Eriksson ruled 1332-1355 over Finland and all of the Scandinavian
       peninsula in a loose union between Norway, Sweden, Scania and
       For its time it was the greatest realm in Europe.
     [ Henrik Ernø writes: ]
     During the period of 1315 to 1331 the Kings' power in Denmark was
     steadily weakened by the powerful noble families, which successed
     in limiting the King's position significantly both politically and
     financially. The King compensated by borrowing money to raise his
     armies from both the Hansa, the Counts of Holstein, the Kings of
     Brandenburg, and anybody else. As surety for the loans various
     parts of the kingdom were pawned out to the moneylenders, who then
     often resold the rights of the pawned province to third parties.
     [ Johan Olofsson writes: ]
     The Scanian nobility (alternatively the Thing in Lund) had in the
     beginning of the 1330s chosen the young Magnus Eriksson to be king
     also for the Scanian provinces, as also Gotland had done, after his
     regents had promised to pay Count Johan of Holstein to whom Scania
     was pawned. At that time Magnus Eriksson was the under-age king of
     both Norway and Sweden.
     [ Jan Böhme replies: ]
     It should be stressed that this was a much more drastic step to
     take for the Scanians.
     The Gutnish quite regularly pledged allegiance to the Swedish King
     in the early Middle Ages, on the routine understanding that this
     would mean as little as possible on the island in practice.
     For the Scanians, it really implied a shift of allegiance.
     Which means that Valdemar Atterdag's later re-conquest of Scania
     only meant a restoration more or less to status quo ante, whereas
     his conquest of Gotland meant an important change of the "facts on
     the ground".
     * When King Magnus' younger son Håkon comes to age, he is appointed
       king of Norway despite Crown-Prince Erik being the rightful heir
       to the throne. The discontent Crown-Prince starts a rebellion and
       gets most of the realm, but soon he and all of his family die in
       an epidemic disease. After this the balance had definitely
       changed: Sweden was weakened and Denmark the strongest again.
     * King Valdemar Atterdag of Denmark conquers Scania and Gotland,
       King Magnus seeks support by the strong Hanseatic League but is
       forced to abdicate in favor of his son Håkon (king of Norway), who
       allies with the Danish king where-after the German Duke Albrecht
       of Mecklenburg is appointed king of Sweden and imprisons the
       ex-King Erik until six years later he is rescued by his son King
       Håkon of Norway.
     * In 1368-70 Valdemar Atterdag had gained courage enough to
       challenge the Hanseatic League. Denmark tried to master the
       southwestern Baltic and end the Hansa's economic control there.
       But instead the League was united (the Cologne-federation) and
       decided to raise an armed force that then defeated the Danes
       decisively. The league then tried to dominate Denmark by means of
       a 15 year's contracted possession of castles and towns along
     * After Valdemar Atterdag's death his five years old grandson Olav
       is elected King of Denmark - the alternative would have been the
       nephew of King Albrecht supported by the German emperor. But the
       emperor died. Olav's father was King Håkon of Norway, but the
       Danish realm is in the hands of his mother, Queen Margrete of
       Norway, the daughter of Valdemar Atterdag, who wasn't on speaking
       terms with her husband the king.
     * When King Håkon died his son Olav was still under age, only nine
       years old, and the queen ruled over both Norway and Denmark. The
       King Olav died however also (at the age of seventeen) and the
       son-son of the Swedish King Albrecht of Mecklenburg was closest to
       the throne.
     * The Danish nobility did however prefer the Norwegian queen for the
       German king and appointed her to regent with support of the Thing
       in Lund. Then the Norwegians elected her to regent, and finally
       the Swedish State Council and aristocracy chose to support her
       against King Albrecht in Sweden, who was beaten in a battle with
       Queen Margrete and together with his son Erik captured and
       imprisoned. (1395 he was rescued through Mecklenburg's war against
       the queen.)
     * Finally Bugislav, the nephew of Queen Margrete, is elected king
       (known as Erik of Pomerania) by the Norwegian state council with
       the queen as regent until he comes to age; then he is elected king
       in province after province of Denmark (1387) and so also by the
       Swedish state council (1389). Thereby the union was made
       legitimate, and in contrast to earlier occasions when one king
       ruled over two Scandinavian countries, this came to last for a
       long time. (Although the Swedes made a lot of problems all the
    Is it true that Scandinavia was a united Norse Realm before Christianity?
   Well, ...yes and no!
   There existed short-lived kingdoms with considerable size also before
   the 14th century, but they all disintegrated when the king in question
   died - if not before. Maybe the army which was raised to defend
   Jutland against the Huns was the first.
   During the 11th century there are for instance King Canute the Great's
   realm including most of England, Norway, maybe Sweden and (of course)
   Denmark. But the first years of the millenium was rich in power-play:
     * Olof Skötkonung, King of Svealand, allies with his step-father
       Svend Fork-beard, King of Denmark, and the exiled Jarl Eirik from
       Norway. [ "Jarl" is the same word as "Earl". ] They defeat King
       Olav Tryggvason of Norway. Jarl Eirik gets a third of Norway as
       his own, and the part of Olof Skötkonung's as his vassal. This
       happened in year 1000 according to Snorre.
     * Then the viking chieftain, King Olav Haraldsson defeats and slays
       the son of Jarl Eirik, but unites with Eirik against King Olof of
       Svealand. Unpease pesters the life in Jämtland and Bohuslän.
     * According to Snorre (not too sure in other words) the leaders at
       the Thing in Uppsala compelled King Olof to peace-negotiations
       with King Olav.
     * King Canute the Great (of Denmark) conquered also Norway. King
       Olav escaped to his relative King Jaroslav in Novgorod, where he
       raised an army. They landed in Sweden where meanwhile the
       Svenonians (Svear) had lost their patience with the self-willed
       King Olof Skötkonung, who had taken the unprcedented step of
       conversion to Christianity. King Olof was expelled (and on his
       escape given refuge in Skara in Götaland, where his confessor and
       spiritual father proclaimed Sweden's first bishopric).
     * The new King of Sweden, Amund Jakob, supports king Olav
       Haraldsson, who however is killed in the battle of Stiklestad in
     * When King Canute the Great dies in 1035 the Danish supremacy over
       Norway is exchanged in a Treaty of Friendship, Co-operation and
       Mutual Assistance. It was settled that if one of the two realm's
       kings should die without heirs, then the other would succeed him.
     * King Hardeknud of Denmark dies without an heir in 1042, and
       Denmark and Norway is again united - now under King Magnus.
     * But soon a retired colonel from Constantinople, the uncle of King
       Magnus, returned to his native country and made demands on half of
       the kingdom. As King Magnus refused, the uncle, who came to be
       called Harald Hårdråde by the way, allied with Svend Estridsøn, a
       claimant to the Danish kingdom. King Magnus was defeated in the
       year 1047, and the union between Denmark and Norway was split.
    That's rather messy, isn't it?
    Could you please make a table?
   - At your service!
   1022-35 King Canute the Great united Denmark, Norway and parts of
   1042-47 King Magnus of Norway inherits the Crown of Denmark.
   1262-1536 Iceland is governed by Norway
   1319-55 Personal union between Norway and Sweden
   1332-60 Personal union between Sweden, Scania and Gotland
   1362-64 Personal union between Norway and Sweden
   1387-1536 Personal union between Denmark and Norway
   1389-1523 Personal union between Denmark, Norway and Sweden
   1536-1814 Norway is incorporated¹ in the Danish realm
   1536-1918 Iceland is incorporated in the Danish realm
   and 1918-1944 in personal union with Denmark
   1536-- The Faroe islands are incorporated in the Danish realm
   1814-1905 Personal union between Norway and Sweden ¹/ There remains
   some dispute regarding if Norway regained sort of a status as
   a kingdom again, in personal union with Denmark, in 1660.

[ the sections above are available at the www-page ]


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