Abba. IKEA. Meatballs. Vikings. Perhaps some of the things you might come to mind when you think about Sweden. You might also think of its natural beauty, a country that is home to 29 national marks, mountains, forests, and the northern lights. Sweden has a rich cultural heritage reflected in its architecture, and museums, one of which is of course the ABBA museum.
The History of Sweden
The first known inhabitants of Sweden were hunter-gatherers who arrived in the area around 12,000 years ago. During the Stone Age, these early inhabitants began to farm and domesticate animals.
In the 8th century, Sweden entered the Viking Age. During this time, Swedish Vikings explored and conquered much of northern Europe and Russia. They also established trade routes that stretched from the Mediterranean Sea to the Baltic Sea. Renowned for their martial skill, many Vikings served as the personal bodyguard to the Byzantine Emperors known as the Varangian Guard.
By the 11th century, Christianity was the dominant religion in Sweden. In 1397, Sweden joined with Denmark and Norway to form the Kalmar Union. The Kalmar Union lasted for over 100 years, but Sweden left in 1523 leaving Norway as the junior partner taking its lead from Denmark.
In the 16th century, Sweden entered the Renaissance. During this time, the country experienced a period of economic growth and cultural development. Sweden also became a major military power, and it fought several wars against Denmark and Russia.
Sweden entered its Age of Greatness in the 17th century, becoming an Empire and major European power. Sweden conquered parts of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Germany, and Russia, and it became the dominant power in the Baltic Sea region.
The 18th century was a period of decline. Initially successful in the Great Northern War against Russia, Saxony-Poland, and Denmark-Norway a march on Moscow was disastrous. Fighting old General Winter and a Russian scorched earth policy weakened the Swedish army which was defeated a year later. The country lost many of its territories and in 1809, Sweden was forced to cede Finland to Russia.
Sweden remained neutral during World War I and World War II. In the years after the war, Sweden experienced a period of economic growth and social progress.
Today, Sweden is a modern, prosperous country with a high standard of living. The country is a member of the European Union, and it plays an active role in international affairs. Sweden is also a popular tourist destination, known for its beautiful scenery, its rich culture, and its friendly people.