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[ By: Ahrvid Engholm and Antti Lahelma ] 7.2.1 Geography, climate, vegetation Sweden occupies the Eastern part of the Scandinavian peninsula. It's a long (1572 kilometers) and rather narrow country, and the largest of the Nordic countries. It shares a long border with Norway to the west and a shorter border with Finland in the east; Denmark lies to the south across the Danish straits, over one of which (Öresund) a huge bridge is being built. The Baltic Sea islands of Gotland and Öland are integral parts of Sweden. Northwestern Sweden is crossed by an ancient mountain chain; the remainder of the north is a southeast-sloping plateau that rises to between 200 and 500 meters. South of the Norrland, forming the region of Svealand in central Sweden and Götaland farther south, is a varied region of plains and rift valleys. (The region Götaland should strictly speeking not be used for more than the provinces Dalsland, Västergötland and Östergötland, but most often also Bohuslän, Halland, Småland, Skåne and Bleking are understood as provinces of Götaland, as they are incorporated in the Swedish realm after being captured in the 17th century.) To the north of the highlands is the Central Swedish Depression, a down-faulted, lake-strewn lowland extending across the peninsula from near Göteborg to east of Stockholm and Uppsala. To the south is Skåne, a low-lying, predominantly agricultural area. Because of it's large area and latitudinal extent, Sweden has a number of climate regimes. A cold, maritime climate dominates the country's west coast. The northern two-thirds of the country has a continental climate marked by severe winters. The south central areas experience the long, rather cold winters of the north, but they enjoy milder summers. The mountain regions remain cool in summer. In January temperatures average -0.8°C at Lund in the south), -2.8°C at Stockholm, and -13.7°C at Jokkmokk north of the the Arctic Circle. In July, the temperature variation is lower because of the sun shines the longer the further north one goes: 15°C at Jokkmokk, 18°C at Stockholm, and only 17°C at Lund. Snow remains on the ground for 40 days in southernmost Sweden, 100 days in the Stockholm area, and 250 days in the northwest mountains. Forest covers ca. 64% of the land area. It consists of a summer-green forest of beeches, oaks, and other deciduous trees in the south, a mixed forest of deciduous and coniferous trees in central Sweden, and a predominantly coniferous forest of mainly pines and spruce in the north. Mountain birch and dwarf birch grow in colder upland areas, and tundra covers the highest elevations. Treeless moors (peat moss and marshland) cover more than 14% of all Sweden and as much as 40% in western areas of the south and parts of Norrland. Bears, wolves and lynxes are now found only in isolated woodlands, elk and deer are the common large animals found elsewhere. 7.2.2 Economy Sweden's most valuable assets are forests, mines (especially iron, but copper has also been important), and in modern days hydroelectric power. The metallurgic industry was started in the 16th and 17th centuries, and through the ages Sweden has been known as one of the biggest iron exporters in the world. A mechanical industry came with the industrial revolution in the 19th Century, and Swedish products such as steel (Sandvik), paper (SCA and others), cars (Volvo and Saab), ball bearings (SKF), electrical equipment (ASEA, now ABB), telephone equipment (Ericsson) have become well known. 7.2.3 Government Sweden is a constitutional Monarchy, but the monarch only acts as a ceremonial head of state. A parliament (Riksdag) composed of 349 members is elected every four years; it elects the prime minister, passes laws, decides on taxes and approves the state budget. The cabinet holds office only as long as it retains the support of a majority in the Riksdag. The state authorities are comparably independent of the cabinet: their highest officials being appointed by the cabinet for six years, and usually the term is extended unless serious problems occurred in the contact between the authority and the ministry. There are four laws protected as constitutions: Instrument of Government, Parliament Act, Succession Act, and the Freedom of the Press Act. The 286 municipalities are obliged to fulfill services to its inhabitants as stipulated by law, but are independent to decide the means without interference from state authorities. Municipalities are mainly responsible for education and social service. Additionally there are likewisely independent province councils responsible mainly for hospitals, medical practioners and other health care. The democratic councils for municipalities and provinces are elected by the residents, regardless of citizenship, which in the most extreme cases means that nearly 20% of them eligible to vote are aliens. After the era of the Kalmar Union between Denmark and Sweden, king Gustaf Vasa created a more modern nation and made Sweden Lutheran. After the losses of territories 1718 and 1809 democratic reforms where made, but it lasted to 1921 until all adult citizens had the right to vote (for men: 1907), and first 1971 the constitution was changed to reflect the long-time practice of parliamentarism. During the 1990:ies the state church is in the process of liberating itself from the state, or maybe more accurate: the state is giving up its power over the church, and the church will lose some of the authority connected to its status as state church. A decreased number of members is to expect. Sweden has not been involved in a war since 1814, mainly due to luck and a strong policy of neutrality. This policy may shift as Sweden in January 1995 joined the European Union (but the future isn't very clear yet). There are old proto-democratic traditions in Sweden. In the middle ages the kings were elected for life by representatives of the different "landskaps". Even when the monarchy was made hereditary after the Kalmar Union, the elected estates at the Riksdag retained substantial power (though the king sometimes managed to push this power back). These traditions played an important role as modern democracy gradually took over in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Two important political concepts emerge from Sweden: the ombudsman, a representative elected by the parliament to watch public administrations and with the power to prosecute, and the constitutional principle of official documents ("offentlighetsprincipen" constituting a part of the Freedom of the Press Act), which says that all governmental documents are a priori public (unless declared secret under special laws). Political forces The principal political parties are * the Social Democratic party (led by the prime minister Göran Persson), * the "Moderata Samlingspartiet" (the rightest party with liberal policy but a conservative heritage; led by former prime minister Carl Bildt), * the Center party (with agrarian dominance and subsequently diminishing), * the (social) Liberal party "Folkpartiet", * the Christian Democratic party, * the Environmentalists The Green, * the Left (formerly the Communist) party, and * the populist "Ny Demokrati" (New Democracy - now committing suicide). Beginning in the 1930s, the Social Democrats were the dominant party, their position secured by economic prosperity and a broad program of social welfare. In the 1970s and 1980s, however, dissatisfaction grew among the voters over high taxes and a lagging economy. An anti-socialist coalition governed from 1976 to 1982, and another one under Carl Bildt from 1991 to 1994, when Social Democrats under Carlsson again came to power. When in trouble, as for the moment, the social democrats have a tradition to lean against the Center party, with regular negotiations and agreements, but without forming coalition cabinets. In the last elections the results has been as follows: 1973 1976 1979 1982 1985 1988 1991 1994 ----------------------------------------------------- Left 5,3 4,8 5,6 5,6 5,4 5,8 4,5 6,2 Green (1,7) (1,5) 5,5 (3,4) 5,0 Soc.dem. 43,6 42,7 43,2 45,6 44,7 43,2 37,7 45,3 soc.lib. 9,4 11,1 10,6 5,9 14,2 12,2 9,1 7,2 center 25,1 24,1 18,1 15,5 12,4 11,3 8,5 7,7 christ. (1,9) (2,9) 7,1 4,1 Right 14,3 15,6 20,3 23,6 21,3 18,3 21,9 22,4 popul. 6,7 (1,2) ----------------------------------------------------- Blocks: left 48,9 47,5 48,8 51,2 50,1 54,5 42,2 56,5 right 48,8 50,8 49,0 45,0 47,9 41,8 53,1 41,4 In parentheses: results below the 4,0% limit for representation. Maybe due to the dominant position of the Social Democrats the politic life in Sweden has been characterized by semi-rigid right and left blocks defined as oppositional or supporters of the Social Democrats. During some periods the Social Democrats have succeeded to cooperate with one of the right block parties, as during 1996 with the Center Party, which the other parties have seen as weakening of the opposition. Account over municipal responsibilities Approximately 50% of the municipal services are financed through direct taxes, only 15% by direct fees, and about 20% as state contributions. (Don't ask about the remaining 15% - the municipal trolls might change their minds.) Totally 350 milliards SEK are used for municipal activities, and 170 milliards SEK for the province councils, of which nearly all goes to the health care sector. The main municipal expenditures are: * Primary and secondary education (21%), * caring for elderly (17%), * caring for children (11%), * support of disabled and poor (8%), * supply of ground and housing (10%), * supply of water, energy and garbage disposal (7%), * public transportations (4%), and * sport and leisure (4%). [ Figures above for year 1993 ] Account over state revenue Approximately 550 milliards SEK are distributed by the state budget, of which 75 milliards go straight to the municipalities and provinces as subsidizes. The rest is distributed on: (memorizeable figures, in the range +/- 10% of exact figures) * 100 mill. National debt interest * 75 mill. pensions to aged and disabled * 75 mill. state consumption (defence, police, universities etc) * 75 mill. transfers to families, unemployed, diseased and others * 45 mill. transfers to private corporations * 30 mill. transfers to state enterprises * 15 mill. foreign aid [ Figures above for the fiscal year 1993/94 ] 7.2.4 Population The nation has its roots in the different kingdoms of the Viking Age, and is said to have been created when the King of the Svenonians ("Svearna") assumed kingship over Goths ("Götarna") as well in early middle ages. The word Sweden ("Sverige" short for "Svea rike" in Swedish) comes from the Svenonians ("Svearna"); "Sverige" means the realm of the Svenonians. The English form of the name is probably derived from an old Germanic form, Svetheod, meaning the Swedish people. In medieval times the Swedes also pushed north to colonize the province now known as Norrland, and over the Baltic Sea to conquer Finland. Sweden has a relatively homogeneous population in ethnic stock, language, and religion. Because of the country's isolation only few non-Swedes have intermixed with the Swedes before very recent times; the major groups that have done so were Finns 1580-1660 and Walloons from present-day Belgium, who settled in the Bergslagen area in the 1620s. Groups that maintain their distinct ethnic identity today include a Finnish minority on the border to Finland, about 15,000 Saami, and recent immigrants. Since 1987 the Tornedalen-Finnish, Saami languages and Romani have special status as minority languages, and since 1993 the Saami minority elects a representative assembly, the Saami Parliament, which however has limited power. Constitutionally this assembly, despite its name, is less more than a lobby organization with authority to distribute the funds the Swedish government let it dispose. In the furtest north geographical names make the Lappish heritage obvious. The following words in Saami languages are usual: tjuolma= land between rivers, luokta = bay, jaure = sea, jokk = small river, kaise = steep peak, tjåkkå = blunt peak, vare = fjeld mountain, tuottar= fjeld plain (without trees). 12% of the population are 1:st generation immigrants: from the Baltic countries (1944); Hungary (1956); Yugoslavia, Greece, and Turkey (in the 1960s and '70s), Czechoslovakia (1968), Chile (1973), Iran and Iraq (in the 1980s), Palestina/Lebanon, and recently arrived refugees from the civil wars in Yugoslavia. A third of the immigrants (4,4%) has arrived from the neighboring countries Finland, Norway, Denmark, Germany and Poland. Today about half of the immigrants have Swedish citizenship. 7.2.5 The Swedish language Swedish is a Germanic language, very closely related to Danish and Norwegian (most Swedes can understand Danish and Norwegian), and somewhat less close to Icelandic, German, Dutch and English. There are many words borrowed from German, French (18th Century) and English (later). Except for in Sweden, Swedish is spoken by a native minority in Finland, and a nowadays very small minority at the Estonian coast and islands. Peculiar with the Swedish language is that there exist not only one, but at least four hight status dialects (and sociolects): One southern, connected with Scania and the University in Lund, one western spoken by affluent people in and around Gothenburg/Göteborg, one eastern valid in Finland (for instance on stage in Helsinki/Helsingfors), and finally the sociolect spoken by higher officials, actors and others in the capital, which serves as high status standard for the rest of Sweden, connected with the University in Uppsala. Besides there exist at least a dozen of still distinguishable dialects, or dialect groups, but after the breakthrough for radio and TV these dialects have been heavily influented by the equalizing effect of the broadcasting media. (A recent unsolved dispute in the newsgroup was whether the Scanian dialects rightfully is to classify as East-Danish together with the dialect on Bornholm, or with the dialects of Götaland i.e. in Göteborg, Småland and Östergötland.) For non-Nordics who attempt to learn the Swedish language, the pronunciation might seem rather difficult, since Swedish (at least the "standard" variety of it spoken in Sweden) has several unusual vowels and consonants, e.g. retroflexed dentals and the "sj"-sound in sjuk "sick" which are not found in other European languages. Distinct word tones also characterize certain elements of its vocabulary, for which reason acquisition of a good Swedish pronunciation requires a considerable amount of commitment and work. The serious student of Swedish also has to learn to deal with regional varieties such as Scanian and Finland-Swedish, both of which differ sharply in pronunciation from the Stockholm-area oriented standard "broadcast" Swedish. Erland Sommarskog <firstname.lastname@example.org> replies: To be fair, dialects of Swedish are not worse than say of Italian. - Or for that matter, English. You don't need to bother about the "sj" in "sjuk". While as noted above, this is a strange creature, it is also subject to huge variation, and if you get in conversation with some Swedes you might find that every one is pronouncing the sound differently - even that the same person is chosing different realiasations on different occassions. Phonemically you would write them all /S/, you can use the sound for "sh" in "shoe" without being particularly wrong. You will then have to learn to distinguish this alevoar fricative from the palatal fricative in "tjuv" - then again, there are Swedes who don't. From my experience the retroflexes does not cause much problems either. Odd as they are, foreigners seem to pick them up quite easily. And, again, it is possible to avoid them. They arise when 'r' is followed by 's', 'n', 'd', 't' and 'l', but several dialects pronounce them separately. And while in Sweden this is dialects have an uvular or velar 'r', I know people who speak with a front 'r' and yet do not use retroflexes without having any Finland-Swedish ancestry at all. How this has come about I don't know, but I'm suspecting these individuals to have abandoned their original dialect for an over-correct standard Swedish. There are nevertheless some difficult sound in Swedish. 'u' as in "kul" is a rounded semi-high front vowel which has few equals. To a foreigner it might seem close to 'y' which is a rounded high front vowel, but I can assure you to a Swede they are most definitely not. Then again, I once spoke with a British gentleman who said "Sturegatan". His 'u' was perfect, but the first 'a' in "gatan" revealed him directly. To wit, the 'a' is the same as in "father" but with slightly different colour. Anyway, Swedish pronouciation is probably difficult because it is so irregular. Not so bad as English, but bad enough. One thing we are particularly fond of are homographs, that is words with the same spelling but different pronounciation: "vän", "kort", "hov", "vits", "hänger". 7.2.6 Culture Swedes work hard, pay high taxes, try to be open minded to other cultures (there is much immigration, which most people seem to accept), enjoy their traditions (around Christmas and Midsummer, for instance), but it is not true we should be among the heaviest drinkers in the world. Statistics in the newspaper Svenska Dagbladet January 7th 1995 shows Swedish alcohol consumption to be on only 21st place among a selection of the industrialized nations, with 6.1 (100% pure) liters of alcohol/year (after most Western European countries and USA). On the other hand we do (most of us do) still follow our old custom to drink only occasionally, but then with the goal to get drunk. [ For further information, see the article in part 2 about Nordic alcohol customs. ] Swedes take pride in making the society friendly to children and their parents including long government-paid maternal leaves, subsidized pre-schools and municipal investments for sport and leisure-time activities. Swedish women have one of the highest fertility rates in the industrialized world, giving birth to 1.97 child each, and the highest rate of breast feeding. In the same intention to make the society friendly and to lighten the lives of its members, Sweden has also put certain effort into making public buildings, and also ordinary tenement houses, available for wheel chairs. The nature, the big woods and the mountains, have a particular place in the hearts of the Swedes. The General Right to Public Access ("Allemansrätten") is unique for the Scandinavian countries, and the most important base for outdoor recreation, providing the possibility for each and everyone to visit non-cultivated land, to take a bath in seas, and to pick the wild flowers, berries and mushrooms. The religious rites as baptizing, confirmation, marriage and funeral are deeply rooted in the culture, although only a small minority participate in ordinary mass. Despite the fact that the Swedes have honored the old Germanic tradition that the people follow the religion of the king, and subsequently all Swedes were obliged to communion long into the 19:th century and to membership in the state church long into the 20:th century, it can also be noted that Swedes belong to the most secularized people in the world. The church, and its services, are felt more as a cultural heritage, than as a religious. As for instance at 1:st Sunday in Advent and at Christmas Eve - the two days at the year when the churches are filled. Science and technology also play an important role in the modern Swedish society. Private companies fund substantial research and development, and also the government funds research at the universities. Examples are the JAS Gripen fighter project, and the information technology strategies put forth by the Bildt (1991-1994) government. (The following cabinets, led by Ingvar Carlsson and Göran Persson have been less enthusiastic about these projects.) Leading cultural institutions (in Stockholm) are the Swedish Royal Opera; the Royal Dramatic Theater; the National Touring Theater; and the Swedish Academy, which awards the Nobel Prize for Literature. Literature is important in Swedish culture. Authors like August Strindberg (1849-1912), Selma Lagerlöf (1858-1940) who wrote Gösta Berlings Saga (awarded with the Nobel Prize) and Astrid Lindgren (1907-) are among the best known. At the previous century shift public libraries were organized by different organizations in nearby every village with a church or a school. Most of them still remain, but now run by the municipalities. A curious detail is that most Swedes probably would not count authors as Edith Södergran and Tove Jansson as Swedish authors, despite the fact that they have written in Swedish - their mother tongue. There aren't many internationally known Swedish composers, but Swedes have an ancient fondness for ballads and troubadours (Carl Michael Bellman (1740-1795) is dearly loved by Swedes), and in the later days Swedish pop and rock groups have reached international fame (e.g ABBA, Army of Lovers, Roxette, Ace of Base, etc). Of the many immigrants very few have yet become popular cultural personalities. Maybe with exception of the poet Theodor Kalifatides and Finland-Swedish actors, as Stina Ekblad, Jörn Donner, Birgitta Ulfsson and Lasse Pöisti. Promising is however how a lot of new Swedish rock bands come from suburbs with immigrant majorities, and how some of the most popular rock and pop artists are immigrants, as for instance dr. Alban. Sweden also has a strong movie tradition, already from the days of the silent movies, people such as Victor Sjöström (1879-1960), known in the United States as Victor Seastrom, and Mauritz Stiller (1883-1928). The director Ingmar Bergman (1918-) is world-famous and actors like Ingrid Bergman (1915-1982) and Greta Garbo (1905-1990) have played in several of the classics of the movie history. Various sports are popular in Sweden, especially team sports like soccer and ice hockey, but also for example tennis and table-tennis, outdoor activities like skiing and orienteering. 7.2.7 local democratic traditions If Swedes aren't proud of the violent past with vikings, wars and conquers then instead the long and strong democratic tradition is a very important part of the cultural heritage. To trace this tradition is almost impossible, since already in the first written laws (from the 1220:ies) it seems obvious that the customs are timehonored. Villages had had time at least since the Iron age to develop traditions. To distinguish Sweden's conditions compared to Finland, Denmark or the European continent is also hard but a few differences are obvious. While solitarily living families have been more important in parts of Finland, villages and works are the most prominent communities in Sweden. The Danish tradition is influenced by feudalism and the absence of woods and works. Fishing villages have been of the greatest importance on the long Norwegian coast and on the many Danish islands. These societal differences are usable when one tries to analyze the differences between "national characters" - still one must remember the resemblance is more prominent than the differences. Scandinavia and Finland has had only a rudimentary feudal system. Most land has been owned by commoners paying taxes to the king and without being directs subordinates to any lords. The great forests has made it hard for the lords to pester and punish the commoners. In Sweden the villages were left to rule themselves without any superior to interfere. Each villages had, until the 19:th century, one fenced field precisely marked in shares for each property. (On the rich plains some villages had two or even three fenced fields where the crops were changed systematically, but in these cases each farm had property on each field.) Outside of the fence the cattle had to graze between sowing and harvest. The farmers were responsible for one part each of the fence. The fence was the most important subject the villagers had to cooperate about, but as the field was organized it was also practically and often necessary to do the work coordinated on the same days. The village meeting had to discuss and decide about this, but also about the use of woods, fishing water, common roads, boats and herding. The village meeting was however not for crofters or other poor. Instead it often regulated how many lodgers the village could feed, forcing people to move. The main rule was, that changes in the statues for a villages were to be accepted by all farmers unanimous. The statues could however stipulate that other decisions were to be made by a majority. Unanimity was however the basic rule for how decisions were to be made at meetings in villages and parishes. This tradition of unanimous decisions must have contributed to the Swedish custom of adjustment of ones attitudes to the perceived majority. Unanimous decisions demand a high degree of compromises from the individuals. The pre-Christian culture was a tribe culture like many other of the pre-Christian cultures among the indo-Europeans. The members of a tribe were obliged to avenge injuries against their dead and mutilated relatives. A balancing structure is necessary to hinder tribe fights to lead to society destructing anarchy. In the North-Germanic cultures the balancing institution was the Thing ("ting"). The thing was the assembly of the free men in an area, as in a hundred ("härad") or in a province / county ("landskap"), at which disputes were solved and political decisions were made. Before Christianity chieftains where at the same time political and religious leaders, with the main purpose to bring the people good times ("fred" - nowadays actually the word for peace). The place for the Thing ("tingsplats") was often also the place for public religious rites, and sometimes the place for commerce. In case of bad times the people could sacrifice their leader (literally!), or maybe less violently select another leader. As the Christian missionaries then convinced the most respected among the viking magnates, an abyss opened between the ordinary agrarian people an their converted magnates; and the old order was disrupted. Free peasants who were used to participate in the decision making in the village, in the province and in the realm did not easily accept to be left unquestioned when the Svea kingdom expanded. The Engelbrecht rebellion is probably the best picture we can get of how kings had been elected in older times. Engelbrecht was elected to captain for Dalarna where he and the people had promised each other allegiance, then he went to Västmanland, where the people summoned to the "tingsplats" expressed their support and allegiance, then to Uppland where Engelbrecht and the people promised each other allegiance, then to Östergötland, where the procedure was repeated, and then to Västergötland where he was honored by the people, then to Halland (the part which at that time was identified with Götaland and Sweden). All this occurred in the end of the summer 1434. In January 1435 a diet appointed Engelbrecht as captain for the Swedish realm, and as such he that year negotiated with the union-king - with poor result. In response to demands from the country a new diet was summoned in 1436 where Engelbrecht was elected king. As king he requested the people in Stockholm to swear allegiance. The Stockholmians had to choose between a battle and a new king, and accepted the new king. During the 16th century a lot of land was taken by the state from parishes and convents. These lands were then often transferred to the nobility, particularly from 1567 to 1680, which had important consequences for the peasants. Tenant farmers on state property could be forced to do extra work in addition to the law-regulated taxes, which was a less favorable situation than for farmers owning their own land, but farmers on land sold/given to nobel masters had additionally lost their right to participation in the elections of peasant representatives at the diets. Works (bruksorter) is the contrasting element, organized in much as a manorial estate, where the owner had the duty to act as a good master in a strictly hierarchical household. The works was a closed society, taking responsibility for the people living there from the cradle to the grave. United the people could express their wishes and propositions, and a wise master would not act against the best of the people. But the power was his. The rules of order at democratic meetings got changed in the 19:th century. The villages were split, many farmers' houses were moved away from the village, each farm got it's field separated from the others, and the village meeting became obsolete. The traditions from the higher assemblies, where the majority ruled, were found fit for the parishes also, particularly when these came to grow due to the urbanization. With the Free Churches, the Temperance movement and the workers unions foreign influences were added to the old traditions. Today fairness and equality are important parts of the order at a meeting. The word is given to speakers in the order they have asked for it, no-one is to be unfairly favored. The assembly and the chair are not supposed to interrupt the speaker, unless he/she breaks any decided rules (as a time limit) or humiliates others. All who wish to speak are entitled to do so prior to the voting, all are entitled to put propositions forward, all propositions are to be equally handled (almost!), and in case of the majority taking a position one feel impossible to take responsibility for, then all are entitled to get ones dissentient opinions taken to the records. But still traces of the unanimity tradition is visible in the attitude that people who suspect they belong to a minority should better not utter their opinion - to the best of all - in order to reinforce the feeling of unity and unanimity. ...and after a decision all participants are expected to advocate the opinion of the majority - whatever they thought before.