Editor’s note: Arland Fiske passed away June 16, but as a tribute to him, The Pilot-Independent will continue to print his column for the next couple of months.
Sweden is the largest of the Scandinavian countries. About 10.2 million people live in 173,630 square miles, a little larger than California. This northern nation is warmed by the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic Ocean and is surprisingly mild.
The country has almost 100,000 lakes and over half of it is covered with forests. Over 2,500,000 people live in three cities: Stockholm, Goteborg and Malmo.
A glacier covered northern Europe about 15,000 years ago. About 9,000 years ago, fishermen and hunters began to settle in Sweden. Then about 2,500 years ago, another ice age began that lasted about 400 years. The present inhabitants of Sweden, as well as Denmark and Norway, are a part of the Teutonic migration that came from Germany after the glaciers receded.
The center of power in early Sweden was the Svea tribe near Uppsala. The name Sweden is derived from them. Many historians also identify the Goths who spread over Europe to have originally migrated from Sweden.
Once the center of Viking activity, Swedish traders and soldiers of fortune traveled eastward into Russia and then southward to Constantinople. They established the first kingdom of Russia at Kiev and many became known as “Varangians,” the Greek emperor’s elite palace guard. The name “Rus,” modern Russia, originally referred to Sweden.
In those days, the worship of Odin, Thor and Frey struck terror in the hearts of the people with their great appetite for human sacrifice. It was the Christian missionaries from Germany and England who gave them new directions.
In 1397, Sweden was joined to Denmark and Norway in the Union of Kalmar. In 1523, The Vasa family came to power and created an independent Sweden. They also established the Lutheran Reformation.
The most famous of these Vasa kings was Gustav II Adolf (Gustavus Adolphus), known as the “Lion of the North.” Swedish immigrants founded a college in 1882 at St. Peter after his name.
The Vasa family ran out of heirs in the early 1800s and made an agreement with Napoleon to invite his Marshall, Jean Baptiste Jules Bernadotte, to become their Crown Prince. He accepted and took the name of “Karl Johan.” Then he switched sides over to the British for which he was rewarded by being given Norway. He was not Norway’s choice of a king, but he did prove to be a good ruler for them.
The Bernadottes continue as the royal family of Sweden today and are very popular both in Sweden and among Swedes in America. The present king, Carl XVI Gustaf, was given solid academic preparation for his ceremonial position. His wife, Sylvia, is of German and Brazilian background. King Harald V of Norway is also a Bernadotte through his mother, the late Crown Princes Martha.
Sweden has had peace since 1814 and this contributes towards its great progress in science, statesmanship, and for its leadership in Christian humanitarianism. This is also the reason why so much of Sweden’s magnificent architecture of the past remains for us to see when we visit Stockholm.
Sweden continues its cautious neutralist policies. In a world of so much conflict. There is much we can learn from Sweden.
Next time: “Hans Chrisrtian Anderson, Denmark’s Beloved Storyteller”