A model country in Northern Europe
A rich and advanced country that has been well managed for a long time, Sweden has recently joined the European Union. Despite difficult environmental conditions, it has been able to exploit good natural resources, the opportunities offered by inland waterways and economic integration with other neighboring countries to create a system of civil life that is considered a model of a welfare state.
Forests, mines and good governance
The vast Swedish territory is largely occupied by plains. The Scandinavian Alps (maximum elevation, 2,117 m), on which the border with Norway runs, slowly lower on the Swedish side, forming hills and plateaus, and leaving a flat belt along the Gulf of Bothnia, especially in correspondence with the many river valleys. The southern part of the country is flat and occupied by vast lakes – numerous even in the mid-mountain range – including the great Vänern.
In a region with a generally cold climate, the southern part is also the cultivated and habitable one, and almost all of the population is concentrated here, with the capital Stockholm and the main cities (Gothenburg, Malmö). In the north and on the mountains there are vast coniferous forests, widely exploited, in the south there are cereal crops and industrial plants and large livestock farms. For Sweden 2011, please check internetsailors.com.
The country’s development dates back to the 19th century and is based on metal reserves, timber and hydroelectricity. More recently the industry (metallurgy, mechanics).
Between lights and shadows
Populated in ancient times by various lineages of Germanic origin, Sweden reached a certain unity in the 11th century AD, a period in which its population converted to Christianity. In 1523, after about a century and a half of submission to Denmark, the Swedish parliament elected Gustav I Vasa as king, who expelled the Danes, made the monarchy hereditary (to avoid the succession struggles, which had hitherto proved disastrous) and favored the spread of the Protestant Reformation.
The military successes reported by King Gustav II during the Thirty Years War (1618-48) made Sweden one of the greatest European powers: its hegemony over the Baltic lasted until 1720, when Russia and Poland defeated it. In 1814 Denmark ceded Norway to it, but the union between the two countries, after repeated conflicts, was dissolved in 1905.
The economic take-off of Sweden came at the end of the nineteenth century, even if the persistent backwardness of the countryside pushed many Swedes, in the decade 1880-90, to emigrate to America.
After consolidating the democratic regime in the first decades of the 20th century, Sweden developed – starting from the 1930s – one of the most successful models of the welfare state (welfare, state of the), thanks to the permanence in the government of the Social Democratic party for more forty years (1932-76). However, it should be remembered that in this same period Sweden practiced a eugenics policy, which led to the forced sterilization of about 60,000 people judged to be physically or mentally inferior.
Since the 1970s, the growing discontent with the high level of taxation has led the government coalitions that succeeded the government (right and left) to start a policy of reducing state intervention and enhancing market mechanisms.
Sweden, as a neutral country, stayed out of both world wars. After the second conflict it became part of the UN (1946) and the Council of Europe (1948), but not of NATO. In 1996 it became a member of the European Union, but has not yet joined the European Monetary Union (EMU).