Välkommen to the second article about my nine heritages. I am taking a break from adoption talk (in a way) to discuss the nine European countries where my ancestors come from, some a large percentage of my background and some small. In my previous heritage article, about Ireland and the history of the Irish people, I discussed how us closed adoptees are discriminated against by our adoption agencies, biological family members who got rid of us or pressured their daughters to get rid of us to keep a white picket fence image, and discrimination by state governments by not being allowed to know what our heritage(s) is/are. This is only the tip of the iceberg of discrimination closed adoptees endure. I also explained in the Irish article how this is not the same for those who grow up in their own biological family but don’t know their heritage or all of them (please read that article for explanation and interesting history on Ireland).
Having a connection to your people is important. Everyone, including closed adoptees, deserve to participate in activities, beliefs, traditions, artwork, recipes, dances, songs, and anything else related to the land of their ancestors or even biological relatives. For example, my lovely biological cousins Stefanie and Uwe are born and raised in Germany and have lived there their whole lives. (Which is yet another reason I need to stick to learning German). I’ll discuss Germany another time.
I only have a small amount of Swedish heritage. I wonder if I would’ve enjoyed Sweden more during the six times I visited Sweden in 2003 and 2004. Sweden was a country I didn’t feel too connected to when I visited, but I wonder if that would change if I returned knowing now I have some Swedish heritage.
Well, how much do you know about Sweden?
Did you know the name Sweden came from the Dutch in the 17th century? The Dutch referred to Sweden as a great emerging power. Old English called Sweden Swëopëod (the p is not a p it’s the “th” letter still written in Icelandic) meaning “people of the Swedes”. In Old Norse Svípjód (the p is the “th” letter in Icelandic and the d actually has a hook on top and a slash through it, the other “th” letter still found today in the Icelandic alphabet). The Swedish name Sverige hails from the Svea and rike, first recorded in Beowulf.
Sweden was first inhabited around 12,000 bc by reindeer hunting hunter gatherers fishers. They occupied the most southern point of Sweden. These people were called the Bromme or Bromma tribe.
Sweden isn’t mentioned in writing until 981 AD by the Roman senator Tacitus. He mentions in 44 and 45 AD the Swedes had an amazing army and navy. Norse mythology states Swedish kings reach far back into bc. Old Swedish in early medaieval times/end of ancient times was written in runic script, also called futhark writing.
In the 500s AD, two tribe were living in Sweden, the Suetidi and the Swehans. It was recorded that they were very tall people, and were said to breed great horses. It’s said the Swedish king Adils (500s AD) had the best horses in Europe.
The Vikings of Sweden reigned from the 700s to the 1000s. The Swedish Vikings, along with the Gotlanders, travelled far to modern day Ukraine, Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, the Black Sea, Finland (next door), and even all the way to Iraq. The Vikings, as we already know were fierce warriors (and terrorists) and impressed the Byztantine emperor (modern day Turkey) Theophils so much he made them his personal bodyguards. These soldiers wore a ruby red earring in their left ear and sewed ornamental dragons into their chainmaille.
The Vikings settled many cities. In my last article, I mentioned how Dublin, Cork, Waterford, and Wexford of Ireland were founded by the Vikings. In eastern Europe the Rus Vikings founded Kiev, Ukraine’s capital. The Vikings are also responsible for starting the czar dynasties of Russia. The name Russia comes from the Rus people and many White Russians can trace roots to Sweden. Novgorod in Russia was also founded by the Rus Vikings. Described by the Iraqi Ahmad ibn Fadlan, the Rus were very tall and muscular and blonde. (I had read elswhere the Vikings were covered in tattoos and some were redheads). The women wore a box over each breast of iron, silver, copper, or gold which indicates her husband’s wealth. Each box has a ring from which depends a knife. The women wear neck rings of gold and silver. The most cherished jewellery for women were green glass beads. The Slavic people of these lands became the Vikings’ slaves or were murdered.
Runestones in Sweden tell of the Vikings’ achievements in taking over others’ land. A runestone is a large stone that stands upright with runic inscription. They are often memorials to dead men who were heroic warriors. As Christianity entered Sweden, 70% of the runestones had explicitly Christian messages.
Nobody knows how Sweden came to be a kingdom. Eric the Victorious, born in or around 945 AD is said to be the first king of Sweden tying Sweden and Götaland together. Prior to his reign the two had been separate countries. Beowulf describes Sweden and Götaland going to war with each other three times in the 6th century, but whether these wars happened at all or how they happened is left up to legend. Parts of Sweden in the southwest at the time were owned by the Danes, and Swedes lived in what is now southwest Finland (Turku. Turku is still a Swedish speaking part of Finland. The Swedes ruled Finland from 1150 until 1809).
St. Angar of east Frankia is given credit with introducing Swedes to Christianity in 829 AD but paganism wasn’t completely replaced until the 1100s. In 1050 AD Sweden was listed as a Christian nation. After being Christianized, the Swedes from 1150-1293, according to legend, went to Finland to attack the Finnish, Tavastian, and Karelian pagans (who practiced a different paganism than what the Swedes’ ancestors had practiced). King Eric IX was killed in Finland. The Swedes created settlements in southwest Finland and had lots of babies, greatly increasing their numbers. Eventually, Sweden ruled Finland for 700 years.
Besides the provinces of Halland, Scania, and Blekinge which were under Danish control and a part of Denmark, Sweden never had feudalism. The Swedish farmers were largely a free class. Slavery was next to never after Sweden was Christianized. In fact, King Magnus IV in 1335 abolished slavery and serfdom. Sweden was a poor country, even though its empire was expanding. Although King Magnus IV ruled over Sweden , Norway, and Iceland starting at age 17, and sent sailors as far away as Greenland, and he did expand his kingdom, he was seen as a weak king and hated by Norwegians. His enemies would make up lies that he was homosexual, which in the 1300s was seen as the worst thing ever, but historians say there isn’t any real proof. Nevertheless, the rumour caused him serious harm.
In the 14th century Sweden’s population, like much of Europe (but oddly not Poland) was decimated by the Bubonic Plague. It was so bad Sweden didn’t replace their population number from the year 1348 until the start of the 19th century!
1/3rd of Swedes died from 1349 to 1351! Yet, the 1300s were not all bad. Life did still go on. Swedish cities did gain greater rights thanks to German merchants. Quite often it happened that boys would come to be king as boys, so Swedish parliament chose 3 powerful families to act on the royal child’s behalf. It is also important to look up the Kalmar Union, but I’m not writing it here as its quite complex. In 1520, Denmark tried to overtake Sweden. King Christian II of Denmark had Swedish nobles executed. Around 100 were executed who were tricked into attending a banquet. Bishops were executed too. The bishops were beheaded The others were hanged or beheaded. The chief executioner Jörgen Homuth states 82, not 100, men were executed. The women were taken as prisoners back to Denmark. Some of these women, like Christina Gyllensteierna became powerful and highly intelligent women that negotiated with King Gustav. King Gustav became king of Sweden in 1523. Swedes consider their independence day to be June 6, 1523. King Gustav I’s reign was considered to be the golden era as Gustav got rid of the greedy Hanseatic League.
By the 1600s, Sweden became a powerhouse and overtook parts of Poland, Lithuania, and Russia in the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648). King Gustav II almost became the Holy Roman Emperor but was shot and stabbed to death on the 6th or 16th of November 1632 a little after 1pm with his final being an execution style bullet to the temple. Next came King Charles X who expanded Sweden farther. Charles X lived to only 37. Gustav II only had one daughter another family’s son was put into rule. 1696 was a bad year though where 10% of Swedes starved to death because of a famine. For the later half of the 17th century Sweden was in constant warfare. Charles II had one of the best arsenals in the world, and a large army and fleet, but it was no match for Sweden’s biggest nemesis, Russia. In 1700 to 1702 though the Russian army was pitiful. Sweden could’ve easily went in and took over Russia, but Charles II for some reason or other, decided to be nice and wait until Russia rebuild to give them a fighting chance so instead he defeated and killed the Polish King August II overtaking part of Poland (and the Swedish army was only half the size of the Polish army).
On August 30, 1721 Sweden’s vast empire came to an end. The Treaty of Nystad gave Estonia, part of Lithuania, and parts of Finland to Russia in exchange for 2 million silver coins. Russia returned most of Finland back to Swedish hands.
During the Napoleonic Wars, Sweden allied with France. This ended in an 1814 ceasefire with Norway until 1905.
By the late 1800s, Sweden was poor again. Between 1750 and 1850, the population doubled, but famine was a problem. Many starved in northern Sweden in 1866-1868. To prevent rebellion, a mass amont of Swedes left for America. From 1850 to 1910, 1 million Swedes came to the USA mainly to the Midwest. Some did go to Canada. Swedish farmers always had freedom and a voice, and so they used it to better their lives creating the Agrarian Party. They also introduced the potato to Sweden which boosted economy. From 1870 to 1914, Sweden joined the Industrial Revolution. People became involved in socialist unions in the start of the 20th century, but Sweden avoided becoming communist as parliamentary was reinstated and the country was then democratised.
During WWI, Sweden was neutral although they did aid Germany. Sweden remained neutral in WWII, but honestly they weren’t. They supplied Germany and were heavily under German influence. However, Sweden did rescue Jews and support Norwegian resistance. They also supported Finland’s independence from Russia. At the end of WWII, Sweden served as a haven for Jewish refugees. Post WWII, Sweden chose to stay out of NATO and the Warsaw Pact, but did supply Europe to rebuild itself.
In the 1970s, Sweden was hard hit by the oil embargoes. In the 1980s, its industralisation had a facelift moving into the future.
In 1995, Sweden joined the EU but has decided to keep their own currency the kroner. Swedes have been active in the UN in warzones.
Since the later part of the 21st century 20% of Swedish citizens do not have Swedish heritage. What has been an extremely safe country since post WWII has seen a rapid increase in violent crime since the immigration influx. In 2015, thousands weekly poured into Sweden. Swedes demanded improved immigration standards. Immigrants are now having more babies than Swedish women. There are now no-go sections of Sweden because of hand grenades, rapes, and gang warfare. Of course, most of Sweden is still very safe but it is still such a shame. United Nations’ statistics prove this uptick in violent crime. According to the New York Times, this violence (sexual assaults, gang warfare) is not happening from the recent immigrants that just came to Sweden from Syria within the past few years, but from past immigrants who are now second generation (probably grieving their mothers who risked their lives to bring their children to a better land and then wonder why their sons grew up to be such shitheads). This also doesn’t mean ethnic Swedes don’t commit crimes. Of course there are Swedish criminals, but Sweden’s open immigration policy did make it a safe haven for criminals to come in. (I also think about the women from these countries. In their home countries they get no voice and no help if abused or killed, but in Sweden they have a voice). Nevertheless, Swedish politicians have done a good job of currently fucking over Sweden.
Sweden has 25 provinces:
Swedish culture has been influenced heavily by Protestant Christianity. Semla is a delicious dessert that is a bun with almond paste and whipped cream topped with powdered sugar served with warm milk. Semla is served on shrove Tuesday. This is the last dessert until Lent is over.
Do you enjoy waffles? The Swedes found a way to make them religiously affliated. March 25th (which is actually today) Swedes celebrate the Blessed Mary learning she will be the Mother of God by eating waffles. How did this come to be? Simply a Swedish play on words.
Sweden has given the world many good things in the form of entertainment and use from ABBA to Skype to Lasse Hallström to great Swedish mysteries.
I hope you have enjoyed this tour of Swedish culture, history, and its people.
Oh, and fika because coffee makes the world go round.