Sweden (Kingdom of Sweden)
|Flag of Sweden|
Nature in Sweden is dominated by forests and many lakes, including some of the largest in Europe. Many long rivers run from the Scandes range through the landscape, primarily emptying into the northern tributaries of the Baltic Sea. It has an extensive coastline and most of the population lives near a major body of water. With the country ranging from 55°N to 69°N, the climate of Sweden is diverse due to the length of the country. The usual conditions are mild for the latitudes with a maritime south, continental centre and subarctic north. Snow cover is infrequent in the densely populated south, but reliable in higher latitudes. Furthermore, the rain shadow of the Scandes results in quite dry winters and sunny summers in much of the country.
Germanic peoples have inhabited Sweden since prehistoric times, emerging into history as the Geats (Götar) and Swedes (Svear) and constituting the sea peoples known as the Norsemen. An independent Swedish state emerged during the early 12th century. After the Black Death in the middle of the 14th century killed about a third of the Scandinavian population, the dominance of the Hanseatic League in Northern Europe threatened Scandinavia economically and politically. This led to the forming of the Scandinavian Kalmar Union in 1397, which Sweden left in 1523. When Sweden became involved in the Thirty Years' War on the Protestant side, an expansion of its territories began, forming the Swedish Empire, which remained one of the great powers of Europe until the early 18th century.
Swedish territories outside the Scandinavian Peninsula were gradually lost during the 18th and 19th centuries, ending with the annexation of present-day Finland by Russia in 1809. The last war in which Sweden was directly involved was in 1814 when Norway was militarily forced into a personal union, which peacefully dissolved in 1905. In 2014, Sweden celebrated 200 years of peace, a longer span of peacetime than even Switzerland. Sweden maintained an official policy of neutrality during wartime and non-participation in military alliances during peacetime, although Sweden secretly relied on U.S. nuclear submarines during the Cold War. Sweden has since 2008 joined EU battlegroups, provided intelligence to NATO and since 2009 openly moved towards cooperation with NATO. In 2022, Sweden applied for NATO membership and was formally invited to join the alliance at the NATO Summit in Madrid.
Sweden is a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary democracy, with legislative power vested in the 349-member unicameral Riksdag. It is a unitary state, currently divided into 21 counties and 290 municipalities. Sweden maintains a Nordic social welfare system that provides universal health care and tertiary education for its citizens. It has the world's 12th highest GDP per capita and ranks very highly in quality of life, health, education, protection of civil liberties, economic competitiveness, income equality, gender equality, prosperity and human development. Sweden joined the European Union on 1 January 1995 but rejected Eurozone membership following a referendum. It is also a member of the United Nations, the Nordic Council, the Council of Europe, the World Trade Organization and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
The name for Sweden is generally agreed to derive from the Proto-Indo-European root *s(w)e, meaning "one's own", referring to one's own tribe from the tribal period. The native Swedish name, Sverige (a compound of the words Svea and rike, with lenition of the consonant [k], first recorded in the cognate Swēorice in Beowulf), translates as "realm of the Swedes", which excluded the Geats in Götaland.
The contemporary English variation was derived in the 17th-century from Middle Dutch and Middle Low German. As early as 1287, references are found in Middle Dutch referring to a lande van sweden ("land of [the] Swedes"), with swede as the singular form. In Old English the country was known as Swéoland or Swíoríce, and in Early Modern English as Swedeland. Some Finnic languages, such as Finnish and Estonian, use the terms Ruotsi and Rootsi; these variations refer to the Rus' people who inhabited the coastal areas of Roslagen in Uppland and who gave their name to Russia.
Currency / Language