Facts & Figures
Sovereign: King Carl XVI Gustaf (1973)
Prime Minister: Stefan Löfven (2014)
Land area: 158,927 sq mi (411,621 sq km); total area: 173,731 sq mi (449,964 sq km)
Population (2014 est.): 9,723,809 (growth rate: 0.79%); birth rate: 11.92/1000; infant mortality rate: 2.6/1000; life expectancy: 81.89; density per sq mi: 55.6
Capital and largest city (2014 est.): Stockholm, 1.372 million
Other large cities (2014 est.): Göteborg, 536,790; Malmö, 303,873
Monetary unit: Krona
- Sweden Main Page
- Socialist Policy Dominates Sweden for Most of the 20th Century and Into the 21st
- Sweden Begins a Move to the Right
- 2014 General Election Leads to Historic December Agreement
Sweden, which occupies the eastern part of the Scandinavian Peninsula, is the fourth-largest country in Europe and is one-tenth larger than California. The country slopes eastward and southward from the Kjólen Mountains along the Norwegian border, where the peak elevation is Kebnekaise at 6,965 ft (2,123 m) in Lapland. In the north are mountains and many lakes. To the south and east are central lowlands and south of them are fertile areas of forest, valley, and plain. Along Sweden's rocky coast, chopped up by bays and inlets, are many islands, the largest of which are Gotland and Öland.
The earliest historical mention of Sweden is found in Tacitus's Germania, where reference is made to the powerful king and strong fleet of the Sviones. In the 11th century, Olaf Sköttkonung became the first Swedish king to be baptized as a Christian. Around 1400, an attempt was made to unite Sweden, Norway, and Denmark into one kingdom, but this led to bitter strife between the Danes and the Swedes. In 1520, the Danish king Christian II conquered Sweden and in the “Stockholm Bloodbath” put leading Swedish personages to death. Gustavus Vasa (1523–1560) broke away from Denmark and fashioned the modern Swedish state. He also confiscated property from the Roman Catholic Church in Sweden to pay Sweden's war debts. The king justified his actions on the basis of Martin Luther's doctrines, which were being accepted nationwide with royal encouragement. The Lutheran Swedish church was eventually adopted as the state church.
Sweden played a leading role in the second phase (1630–1635) of the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648). By the Treaty of Westphalia (1648), Sweden obtained western Pomerania and some neighboring territory on the Baltic. In 1700, a coalition of Russia, Poland, and Denmark united against Sweden and by the Peace of Nystad (1721) forced it to relinquish Livonia, Ingria, Estonia, and parts of Finland. Sweden emerged from the Napoleonic Wars with the acquisition of Norway from Denmark and with a new royal dynasty stemming from Marshal Jean Bernadotte of France, who became King Charles XIV (1818–1844). The artificial union between Sweden and Norway led to an uneasy relationship, and the union was finally dissolved in 1905. Sweden maintained a position of neutrality in both world wars.
Socialist Policy Dominates Sweden for Most of the 20th Century and Into the 21st
An elaborate structure of welfare legislation, imitated by many larger nations, began with the establishment of old-age pensions in 1911. Economic prosperity based on its neutralist policy enabled Sweden, together with Norway, to pioneer in public health, housing, and job security programs. Forty-four years of Socialist government ended in 1976 with the election of a Conservative coalition headed by Thorbjörn Fälldin. The Socialists were returned to power in the election of 1982, but Prime Minister Olof Palme, a Socialist, was assassinated by a gunman on Feb. 28, 1986, leaving Sweden stunned. Palme's Socialist domestic policies were carried out by his successor, Ingvar Carlsson. Elections in Sept. 1991 ousted the Social Democrats (Socialists) from power. The new coalition of four conservative parties pledged to reduce taxes and the welfare state but not alter Sweden's traditional neutrality. In Sept. 1994 the Social Democrats emerged again after three years as the opposition party.
In a 1994 referendum voters approved joining the European Union. Although supportive of a European monetary union, Sweden decided not to adopt the euro when it debuted in 1999 and rejected it again overwhelmingly in a referendum in Sept. 2003.
The Social Democrat Party and its leader, Prime Minister Göran Persson, easily won reelection in Sept. 2002. The center-left Social Democrats had run the government for six out of the last seven decades. That changed when a center-right alliance led by conservative Fredrik Reinfeldt, leader of the Moderate Party, won the election in Sept. 2006.
Sweden Begins a Move to the Right
Parliament passed a law in April 2009 legalizing same-sex marriage. When the law went into effect on May 1, Sweden became the fifth European country to gay marriage.
In September 2010 parliamentary elections, the far-right, anti-immigration Sweden Democrats won seats in parliament for the first time. The elections were inconclusive as Prime Minister Reinfeldt's center-right coalition did not win a majority of seats. He reached out to other parties—not including the Sweden Democrats—to form a minority government.
2014 General Election Leads to Historic December Agreement
In the fall of 2014, the Moderate Party lost the general election. Prime Minister Reinfeldt resigned. Stefan Löfven took office as prime minister after leading his Social Democratic Party to victory with 31% of the vote. Thus, it was a return to power for the Social Democratic Party after being the opposition party for eight years. The night of the election, Löfven announced that he would attempt to form a coalition with the Green Party, the environmental party, and others. However, like Reinfeldt, Löfven ruled out working with Sweden Democrats, which had more than doubled their support in the 2014 election. In fact, Sweden Democrats, which has right-wing extremist roots, became the third-biggest party in Parliament after the 2014 election.
It didn't take long for Löfven's coalition to find itself at odds with the Sweden Democrats. Two months after Löfven took office, parliament rejected his budget proposal. The Social Democrats cast the deciding vote against Löfven's budget. As a result, he called for new elections. The elections were planned for March 22, 2015.
However, throughout Dec. 2014, Löfven's government began negotiating with other parties within his coalition in order to avoid a new election. On Dec. 27, the Swedish government announced that six parties had agreed on a plan that would allow all minority governments to have their own budget. Löfven called the agreement historical. Dubbed the "December Agreement," the plan would be in effect until the 2022 general election and removed any need for the snap election in March 2015.