and Karin Bojs and Peter Englund whose books I’ve read, and Wikipedia and ChatGPT 🙂 We haven’t found anything that came to Sweden before the ice left us. So as far as we know, Sweden
We haven’t found anything that came to Sweden before the ice left us. So as far as we know, Sweden were first populated by groups of
This is a modern image of the oldest skeleton that we have found in Sweden, based on its DNA:
Dark skin and blue eyes. A combination that is very rare these days, but was common in Europe at the time. But all of the early Swedes didn’t look like that. We weren’t first colonized by one group of people, but by several tribes, coming from all over Southern Europe. Reindeer hunters, who followed their prey as they moved north. So ancient Sweden looked probably like Hallonbergen, Vällingby or Fisksätra looks like today: mixed.
Here a local football team is posing as ancient Swedes in front of the Laxgatan street, where I lived from I was 3 until I was 10.
Like everything bad that ever came to Sweden, they entered from Denmark. Skåne, the most southern part, got its first people roughly 12,000 years ago. But 10,000 years ago there was also another group of immigration:
North Russian hunters
As the ice melted, the Atlantic coast got ice-free before the inland, creating another way into Scandinavia, from the North-East, and here came hunters from Northern Russia. They were also “mixed”, but generally had a lot whiter skin, as skin colour seems to change fairly fast in human history, depending on how much sun you have. White skin helps you get D-vitamins from the sun, and having enough D-vitamin helped you get more children without dying. The “Russians” were roughly the same group as those who migrated to the Americas, and they were a little bit more advanced than the “Europeans”. They taught the latter to paint on hills, to bury their dead and to have dogs. Genetically, they had genes which are otherwise only found among people of Chinese heritage, so the East Asian boy in the picture above does fit what we know of ancient Sweden.
Living here for thousands of years, the Europeans also got paler and paler, evolutionary. Vitamin D deficiency is dangerous, so if you live up here, you should definitely take vitamin D pills in winter, especially if you have dark skin. A single human can’t wait for evolution 😉
Some of them lived along the coasts and ate a lot of fish, which also gives vitamin D. Then you might think that they weren’t as white as the inland people. And yes – they did stay dark-skinned longer, as we can see from their skeletons. Like the Inuits of the far north. Too fishy to be white.
We haven’t found any remains of excessive violence between the two human groups. But we have found lots of buried skeletons that were half European, and half Russian, so at least they loved each other sometimes. Some scientists claim that Scandinavia had the most “mixed” population of Europe back then. You could say that the “Adam and Eve” of Sweden were a Southern European and a North Russian. Although we have no idea if any of the genders were more common as father or mother, so I leave that to your fantasy. But the first child seemed to have been made in the area around Gothenburg, which shouldn’t surprise anyone who has visited that area.
The next wave of immigration were the
who started showing up 6000 years ago. The hunters didn’t learn to farm, as we earlier thought. If you were born a hunter, you probably died a hunter – sort of how very few of us change careers in adult life. The farmers came from the Middle East, Turkey or maybe Syria. So you could say that the Arabs have already replaced the first Swedes 😉 And if you’re tired of reindeer, fish and berries, and love some butter and bread downed by a large beer, then you should be grateful.
The farmers came to dominate Sweden, simply since farming means that you stay in one place, and can therefore save food for bad times, while hunters starved when they didn’t find enough prey. If we have 100 hunters who grows by 1% a year, and 100 farmers who grows by 2% a year, then after a 1000 years, the farmers are 99.99% of the population, without violence. That’s just a mathematical example, to show you how farmers have become dominant across the globe without needing to use violence, as long as the land can be farmed (although violence – and pests – have of course been used). But one way that we can see that the Farmers didn’t dominate Scandinavia by arms, is that we have found more people with a hunter dad and farmer mother, rather than the opposite. And the same goes for other parts of Europe. We don’t know why they didn’t fight, but maybe because population was scarce, and since they got their food from different types of habitats. And every now and then, a lone hunter man came and were allowed to plant his seeds in the village.
But the farmers were quite violent, at least inwards, and they had a stronger class-society, which is common when you let humans live in the same village for a thousand years. They sacrificed humans. They were also white-skinned, accelerating the evolutionary whitening of Sweden. If you’ve ever complained of the skin colour of Arabs, then that’s a very old Swedish tradition.
Roughly 5500 years ago, the population of all of Europe diminished by the plague. We developed tools that made it easier to travel, and to transport goods, and got loads of international relations. And viruses love that. And, I only mention this once, but everything here is “the best guess”, taken from Karin Bojs’ books 🙂 (And when they conflict – I choose the later books!) But in any case, the population demise of Europe made it ready to be eaten by the third wave of immigration, the
South Russian Indo-Europeans
Swedish being an Indo-European language tells us that these waves of immigrants came to dominate the country. They were mostly men, and they were herders. The conflict between them reminds much about that between ranchers and farmers in any old Western movie. But the herding men were militarily superior. For example, if they had a beef with a village, they could just destroy their fields with their heavy cows, and the village couldn’t survive for another year. We have found way more skeletons with Indo-European dad and farmer (or hunter) mother, than the opposite. We aren’t sure where they came from, but probably from South Russia, east of Ukraine. They came in waves, just like the hunters and farmers, but their expeditions had more the character of invasions of a militarily more advanced tribe. The first came roughly 5000 years ago. And they killed men and impregnated the women – in almost all of Europe. Our society became way more patriarch and class-based than ever before. Class-based, as we now got a warrior class, ethnically different, and grown to kill and plunder and rule the farmers. You know, like when you learn to fight in your hood, and then go to the local shop and demand 10% of their turnover. They became our first and still strongest mafia: the government.
The first wave (5000 years ago) had cows and sheep. They could drink milk, which most people can’t, and that was a skill that was evolutionary beneficial up here, as most ethnic Swedes can drink milk these days. Later, they rode in on horses, and the horse control itself was of course a very strong weapon, like in most of human history. The first chariots came 4000 years ago. And speaking of genetics: if you’re family is from Sweden, then you might very well be related to the first hunters or farmers on your mothers’ side. But on your fathers’ side, you do come from south Russia. I’m sorry for that.
You exist because of trade
3500 years ago, the population of Sweden suddenly exploded. If your ancestors are from here, then this is probably why you exist. Sweden has always been a slightly more barbaric outlier in Europe. Most civilization occurred around the Eastern part of the Mediterranean. They built pyramids, decided the number of minutes per hour, excelled in mathematics etc. One of those civilizations were Mycenaean Greeks. Suddenly, they started to like amber. And we had that.
It’s the first export product of Sweden that I know of. And it gave us bronze. Sweden back then didn’t know how to make bronze, or maybe we did, but didn’t find the copper, which we later excavated. In any case, Sweden lacked tin. But exporting amber to merchants, gave us bronze tools, a must when for example making good ships out of wood, and it made our population explode. Amber stones from the Baltic Sea have been found in graves in Greece, Spain, Sardinia and in the Alps. So when you see an amber stone, thank it for your life. You could say that you are a luxury product. You were born to adorn a Greek merchant.
Plenty of European Indo-Europeans moved here during this age as well, to profit from the trade. Some of them have been found to be ancestors of up to half of modern Swedes. “Genetically”, this was the largest immigration we ever had, in proportion to the old population. So if you’re an ethnic Swede, then you’re an immigrated amber picker from Germany. I hope that feels good.
I think the best place to visit in Sweden as a tourist is the iron mine in Kiruna. To stand there with exchange students from Germany, Japan and England, and listen to the guide, a grandson to ancient miners, almost cry as he gives the “sad” new of US and UK sinking the iron ships that exported our black gold to the Nazi war machine. That’s being close to history.
While Sweden had to import copper and tin (although we later found a lot of copper), we had our own iron. The coast of Norrland (the area north of Uppsala) was colonized. Class-differences were strengthened. Slaves become common. We didn’t get a defining immigration wave like during the Bronze Age. Even trade diminished from before. Uppsala became the city for crowning kings and sacrificing to the pagan gods, Odin, Thor and the like. Every ninth year they had a “Thing of all Swedes” there, where administrative conflicts were settled. I read in a fiction book, probably The Long Ships, that they had a seven days party during which people could have sex with anyone, in order to prevent inbreeding in their little communities. Unfortunately, science tells me none of that.
The kings eventually started bury each other in huge piles of sand, like these ones in Old Uppsala.
The Geats had their own thing in Skara. So we have to start talking about
When I’ve used “Europeans”, “Russians”, “Germans” and “Arabs” above, I’ve just used the current name of those areas. We know nothing of “ethnicities” in Sweden until about 2000 years ago, when people who can write described Sweden as inhabited by: Swedes (present Stockholm and northwest thereof), Geats (coast to coast in the Southern part), Gutes (island of Gotland), Norse in the West and Danes in the South. Unfortunately, these people didn’t write, so we’re just guessing here. Are the Gutes the same as Geats? Are either of them the same as Goths, who conquered Rome? We don’t know. I’ll not waste your time with theories.
For centuries, Sweden has had two areas with great agriculture, and therefore a lot of power and influence. Swedish Uppland, around Uppsala, and Geatish Västergötland, around Skara. The latter kept its influence centuries after we stopped writing about the Geats. So what happened to the Geats? According to Beowulf, the Swedes defeated the Geats. Although that’s fiction, also involving dragons. One event that made have created the start of their demise is the
Endless winter (536-540)
If you’ve ever been to Sweden, you know that the winter does feel endless when it’s snowing on you in April. But good for you then, that you didn’t live here 1500 years ago. There are plenty of sources all pointing at the same event: some huge volcanoes erupted and covered the air with ash around the globe. According to an Icelandic saga, we had “three years of winter”. That’s hard when you live up here, where the summer is the meaning of life. Also we got plague at the same time. Coincidence or not? It could be that rats somewhere left the colder mountains and spread new diseases. In any case, the population of Sweden was roughly halved. This coincided with the formation of the
The Samis are our own “aboriginals”. The inhabitants of the North, that Swedes have violently tried to become Christian and speak Swedish. And that it’s very popular these days to protect.
Of course they should herd reindeer, as they always have.
The Finno-Ugric languages were created in the North of Russia. Finland was inhabited by Finnish-speaking tribes three or four thousand years ago. Precursors to the Samis became separate from other Finnish tribes 2000 years ago, during which they started migrating towards the Cap of the North, mixing with the Norse. A mix that is the most prominent during the 6th century. After that, they lived isolated for a long while. And this is also when we know (by studying pollen) that the reindeer farming increased heavily. It makes sense, that when your barley and ray dies because of endless winter, you start eating lichen eaters.
The Vendel Period (550-790)
Once the endless winter had met its end, and the plague was gone, Sweden started growing again, with the peak in its old centre, Uppsala. Swedes stopped burying the dead in piles, and instead burned them in boats. Trade increased, they learned to play games and make art based on animals etc. They traded with other countries. Population grew, the land didn’t provide new farms, and soon the “teams” (“lag” in Swedish, which also means “law”), the organization of protection of Scandinavia, had to go
The traditional starting age for the Viking period is 793, the attack on Lindisfarne, a monastery on an island outside northeastern England. However, this date has more to do with how Christianity and literacy had penetrated the victim country. Scandinavians had always raided neighbouring countries. But the thing with the Viking age is that the population pressure of Scandinavia created more arrowfood to send away. After the plague and “endless winter”, it was great to be born in Scandinavia, since you could always find a deserted farm somewhere. But towards the end of the 8th century, Scandinavia had met its feeding power. In the meanwhile, Europe had become richer, and less “defended per shields”. Scandinavians had fought with each other in their “lags”, and they knew how to make ships with very narrow keels, that could easily be ported anywhere. So they increased their raiding and trading.
According to a Viking historian with a pod I forgot the name of, Scandinavians were connected to each other by bonds, friendships, marriage etc. These bonds transected the ethnic boundaries. We all spoke “Old Norse” back then. But when looking at the genetics, it’s clear that Vikings went to the closest sea, and the area beyond. There are more people from Västergötland buried in England than in today’s Russia.
You know all about Viking age, so I’ll just focus on the creation of Russia. This has been debated for a long time, but the closest thing to consensus is: “Russia” is related to “Rus“, which means “rowers” in Old Norse, and is still present in the name of Roslagen, the coastal area northwest of Stockholm and west of Uppsala, served by this train:
This is why “Sweden” is called “Ruotsi” in Finnish, and “Rootsi” in Estonian. The Scandinavian ships were great for navigating river systems as they were very shallow, and could also be dragged from river to river, rolling on logs. The most precious city in the East was the Roman capital: Constantinople. According to traditional Western history, Rome was “divided”. However, in fact, the capital was moved from Rome to Constantinople by, guess who, Constantine. The word “Byzantine empire” was created by a German historian in the 16th century. Vikings didn’t call them Byzantines, nor did they do it themselves. So the Goths didn’t plunder the capital of the Roman empire – they plundered the former capital.
The Swedes sold them furs, amber and slaves, and they bought silks, spices, metals and crafts. And both the Vikings and the Romans served as trading networks, so anything could have been aboard those ships. The Swedes also “sold” themselves – they were popular as soldiers in Constantinople simply by being ethnically and linguistically different. You hired a sword, without hiring the intrigues associated with local mercenaries.
The main Swedish city by then was Birka, located in the Mälaren lake. Birka was strategic, as the channel that we now have in Södertälje, was navigable by then, so that’s where ships coming from the East and from the South met:
Scandinavia is continuously rising, as the ground takes back the room they lost when ice pushed it down, so the straight located where it says “Södertälje” stopped being navigable during the 10th century, and trade moved first to Sigtuna, and later to Stockholm.
In between Birka and Constantinopel there was one great city: Kyiv. It was founded about 500 CE (482 is the official date) and was conquered by the Rurik of the “Rus”, who made it the capital of their kingdom “Kiev Rus”. One of it’s duchies was Moscow, and they eventually became independent and inherited the “Russian” name, and Rurik’s family kept ruling it until his sonson…son died without children in 1598. Now this vast little brother of Sweden is trying to take back Kyiv, and it seems like they fail.
There were several attempts at christianising Sweden, by missionaries from England and Germany. They were initially successful with the kings and the poor. The kings, as they felt that the church made them able to control of the land. The poor, as the missionaries preached an end to slavery, “all humans are born equal” and the like. While the land-holding lords rejected it. The last area of Sweden to be christianized was north of Uppsala, and in Uppsala the Christians built the first (and still largest) cathedral of Sweden – rooting out the asatro at the source. The first king who was christianized was Olof Skötkonung, who ruled between 995 to 1022.
1000-1100 – Birth of Sweden
I suck at the centuries between 1000 and 1500, so I’ve tried to make maps for myself for every century. First of all we have to ask why the Viking age ended. ChatGPT says: Scandinavia became christianized, making it harder to attack other Christian countries. Europe developed it’s internal trade routes, making it less profitable to drag long ships between the rivers of Kiev Rus. Surrounding countries built up their defences against viking raids. Surrounding countries had also became enriched with Scandinavians and their arms: Normandie was a typical example: The French king simply gave the coast away, so when Vikings sailed to plunder France, they met their equals. And in the east we had the Kiev Rus. Finally, one explanation that always flows under the radar when talking about “why” things happened, is that part of the answer is always in agriculture. It was our main industry until the 19th century. Viking raids were fuelled by excess population. Now several of those found new ways of making food.
Swedes didn’t know how to read books, so history is full of assumptions. What is true and what is not? Apparently Sweden was it’s own country (so maybe we have already celebrated 1000 years) but it was constantly fought over between various kings.
Sigtuna was built as capital in 975, the exact same year that Birka was abandoned, and Olof Skötkonung minted the first Swedish coins. Sweden’s oldest church (and now I’m counting what was Sweden at the time, excluding the Skanian provinces!) was built in Skara (old capital of the Geats) in about 1040.
1100-1200 – Christianity stoned
The 12th century was characterized by christianization of the whole country. We had three cities: Skara, Sigtuna and Lödöse, where the latter was located near present Gothenburg, which was Sweden’s gate towards the Northern Sea. The river from our largest lake Vänern, passing through our most valuable province Västergötland, enters the sea there, and Sweden has always made sure to have that little window, paid by blood or gold to the evil Danes. (Note: I’m joking when I calling the Danes evil. You don’t need to use consonants to be good.)
Linköping and Kalmar were founded. Sweden became it’s own bishopric, with the city of Uppsala as centre, and they started building stone churches in Linköping and Uppsala. Swedes had never managed to build houses in stone (so there’s nothing historical to see here unless you go looking at the heaps of sand that I posted above). We got our first monasteries.
We were fighting in Finland. It’s sometimes called a “crusade”, but no such had been ordered by the pope. The fighting did lead to an integration by some coastal provinces that were already partly occupied by Swedes since the Viking age.
The capital of Sigtuna was burned and plundered in 1187. Some sources say Estonian pirates, some say Karelian pirates, but in any case they were from the other side of the Baltic ocean.
1200-1300 – Stockholm founded, Finland conquered
Swedes started writing books pretty late, so besides genetics, most information above comes through Rome, Germany or Iceland (what else to do there besides writing books). But during the 13th century, we got our first national laws. (Before that, every province had their own laws.) Now it was illegal to kill people in their homes, in church and on things. And rape was forbidden.
The cities of Arboga, Enköping, Norrköping, Skänninge (Motala), Västerås and Örebro were found, as well as Turku, on our new Finnish coast. And Stockholm. And when there were cities, there were Germans. German was what you needed to speak to have a career, and a law said that half of city councils in the country should be Germans.
The pope decided that South-Western Finland was Swedish land. Swedes made two crusades against Finland, and founded Viborg castle in the area that Russia conquered in 1944. In 1299, Sweden built a castle at the outlet of the Neva river in Ingermanland – where St Petersburg is located today. Although this was in the middle of a long war with Novgorod. A little bit like when St Petersburg was built 400 years later.
Gotland, inhabited by the Gutes, became very rich during the Viking age, as the main trade centre of the Baltic sea. Loads of silver treasures have been found there (“most in the world” according to Wikipedia, without source). Trade became centralized to the city of Visby, which grew a lot. Sweden managed to make Gotland a part of Sweden, which was accepted by the Hanseatic cities. Although sometimes Sweden had to invade in order to get its taxes.
Stockholm was founded as a new capital. Stockholm is located at the most narrow strait between lake Mälaren and the Baltic Sea, the only way to get the riches of central Sweden now that the strait in present Södertälje had risen. “Stock” means “log” and “holm” means “island”, and although we’re not sure what the name represents, it’s fairly easy to see the current old town being guarded by walls of logs, from people, and from ships who first had to pay customs.
1300-1400 – The plague, and the Kalmar union
In 1323 Sweden made peace with Novgorod after 30 year’s war. No borders were moved. They took the outlet of Neva, and Sweden kept Viborg.
The Hanseatic league grew very strong. It was based on merchants in cities, and didn’t own any land past their walls, but used the kings above them as pawns. They sometimes allied with Denmark, and sometimes with Sweden. The Danish king had pawned Skåne and Blekinge to Hansan, and the two provinces asked Sweden to pay tons of silver to get them, which the Swedish king – Magnus Eriksson – did. The son of the Norwegian king, he also became king of Norway, which was now Swedish for a while. Unfortunately, he didn’t have the money, and had to himself pawn half of Sweden to pay.
Denmark attacked of course, but made peace in 1343. Sweden and Denmark have btw have had most wars than between any two countries on this planet. Magnus Eriksson was broke and indebted to his aristocracy, but still decided to invade Novgorod in 1348, like a “crusade”. It could have been to gain control of trade routes, or maybe (my interpretation) to gain popularity with the pope. Denmark tried to make the pope condemn Sweden’s purchase of Skåne and Blekinge, but the pope gave no true answer, so maybe Eriksson thought that converting/conquering Novgorod would help. Skåne was an increasingly rich area, very comparable to Västergötland and Uppland.
Then the plague came in 1350. 30-40% of the people died. Nothing shakes up history like a plague. Sociologically, it’s great for common people, since they now lack the competition from other common people. It was probably good for the freedom of Swedish farmers. In order to control a population, it needs to be densely populated, so that you can get the taxes enough to subdue them. In Sweden you could just run away and farm somewhere else.
The war with Novgorod finished in 1352, again with no borders moved. The son of Eriksson and many others revolted against him, and Eriksson then allied with the Danish king who took the opportunity to reconquer Skåne and Blekinge, and also conquered Öland and Gotland and extorted contributions from Visby. This was the beginning of Visby’s decline. It now lost its trading power to Lübeck, and Visby has since then remained a small city, packed with ruins of great days. It’s the most beautiful city of Sweden today I’d say.
In the end, Sweden got a German king for a while, Albert of Mecklenburg. Albert was supported by the Hanseatic cities, while the Swedish farmers (who didn’t speak German) revolted. Long story short, this ended with the Kalmar Union, a union of all Nordic countries controlled by Copenhagen.
1400-1520 – A Danish colony
Sweden kept fighting with Novgorod. The Hanseatic cities felt threatened by the Nordic union – which for example controlled the strait to the Baltic sea – and fought a war with us, in which a Danish (including Swedish) fleet crushed their fleet. The plague continued to ravage the countries, it came back every now and then.
Sweden revolted for a while and became independent for a number of decades. I can’t enter all the events into my mind, but let’s just say that the union was way less peaceful than, say, the European Union.
In 1477, the first university in the Nordic countries was established, Uppsala. Here presented with an image of it’s oldest still existing building, which is now a museum. The tower on top is an autopsy hall, in which students could get a very fresh look of human’s insides back then.
It was established in order to educate priests for the church of Sweden, which is located just nearby the building above. Copenhagen university was established in 1479, and the Danish king was shocked when he learned that the pope had already approved Uppsala university.
The duchy of Moscow – Sweden’s grandchild you could say – had recovered from its Mongolian invasion and grown strong, and in 1478 they incorporated Novgorod, so that we lost our second most enemy – and gained a new one, that’d end up to become the most fearful of them – the Rusers, ourselves mixed up with Slavs, or, in today’s language: the Russians.
1520-1523 – Sweden is born as a centralized state
In 1520, the Danish king decided to settle the unruly Swedish once and for all, and invited all noblemen in the country to Stockholm. They all assembled at Stortorget in the old town.
And were killed. Every single one.
One nobleman who missed the party was Gustav Eriksson. He heard of the news, and quickly rode to Dalarna, the area northwest of Stockholm. Dalarna is sometimes called “the Swedishest place existing”, and if you like kids playing ice hockey and driving cars and bars closing at ten, then I guess it is. In Dalarna he was hiding for the Danish for years, which led to all kinds of unimaginable stories that we had to learn in school. He tried to mass the Dalkarlar into a revolt against Denmark, but when they refused, he fled by skies to Norway. But the farmers changed their mind, and captured him in Sälen, after skiing for 90 kilometers, a trip that lots of people take every year: Vasaloppet.
Besides the farmers from Dalarna, he also had support from the Hanseatics of course, since they have always feared a strong Nordic force. When you read Swedish history, it happens again and again: The Germans, the English, the Dutch, have always supported the weaker side of Sweden and Denmark. They all wanted the border between our countries to be actually “free for trade of others” with no one keeping the Öresund strait. The Swedish army captured Sweden during a two year’s long war. In the end they only had Stockholm and Kalmar left, where the Danes were protected by forts that the Swedes didn’t have the tools to besiege. But the Germans took care of that, with their top-notch technology. A little bit like how Ukraine defends it country by blood, and will now reclaim the rest with US and European weapons.
Here is a big painting of the scene of Gustav Eriksson entering Stockholm that you can watch inside Uppsala cathedral.
Gustav Vasa 1523-1560
On June 6 he was elected king of Sweden by the parliament in Strängnäs. Stockholm capitulated June 17, and Gustav Vasa (his new name) entered the city on June 24.
He was a ruthless king. After paying his debt to the Hanseatic league, he still suffered from the trade deals that he had given them, essentially a monopoly in trade from Sweden. So in 1534, he supported Denmark in a bloody civil war in which the city of Lübeck tried to install their own king of Denmark, and it all ended with Sweden being completely free from foreign influence.
Beating the Danes with the Germans, and then the Germans with the Danes. Otherwise he stayed out of foreign wars, with one small exception: Russia. Russians had been marauding the border to Finland, and a Swedish bailiff entered Russia with a small army (without Vasa’s permit), leading the Russians to send an ever larger army. In the end, the Russians couldn’t break into Viborg castle, and peace was settled with no border removals.
Vasa was very interested in protestantism, and Sweden became the first large country to reform. Vasa stole the church’s gold, and he made the priests his employees, thereby having his tentacles out in every village.
Reformation and taxes created a lot of revolts, especially in Småland, but Vasa fought them down.
Sweden and Finland were part of the same country for 600 years, more than Finland’s independence and Russian reign together. This has made our countries quite similar in many ways, as you can see on our attempts at joining NATO right now, but also how the bureaucracy is functioning (as I’ve explained here). Swedes entered Finland during Viking age, while the north of present Sweden was inhabited by Finns and Samis. During the 16th century, they also started immigrating to proper Sweden. They came as miners, but also as slash-and-burners. Slash-and-burning fir forest was a new technique, invented in Russia, and the Finns were invited to the large forests of Sweden, which back then didn’t have much value. Almost two million Swedes are related to these “forest Finns”. There’s nothing more Swedish than being part Finn 😉 Of course there was a class difference as well, with Swedish being the better language in both countries, and many people still alive (especially in Tornedalen) have sad memories from the language repression that Stockholm had, but these days I’d say that we’re “equal”.
Gustav’s children 1560-1611
Gustav left a centralized and very rich country, with a well-functioning army. (The army itself celebrated “500 years” on June 6.) He didn’t care about aesthetics though. Couldn’t care much about the renaissance. His children did though, and started spending a lot to get nice castles, theatres and the like. The oldest one Eric XIV was insane, and was murdered by his brother John III (the fact that he was just the third, and not the fourteenth king Eric, didn’t help). John III married a Polish woman, so when he died, Sweden and Poland had the same king: Sigismund. Sigismund was a fervent catholic, and the third child of Vasa, Karl IX, rebelled and became king (and there were only two king Karl’s before him).
Estonia joins Sweden
The burgers of the free city Reval (Tallinn) felt that they needed to join a kingdom, lest a kingdom would swallow them. They chose between Sweden, Poland and Russia, and went for Sweden, as the burghers liked our relaxed trade policy.
Gustav II Adolf was Karl IX:s son, and during him Sweden became a great power. The control of the country by the king himself was way better than other countries, so that we always managed to get strong armies from a country that was less populated than its neighbours. Gustavus Adolphus liked cannons, and made them small and flexible – before then, cannons were large and couldn’t move so quickly.
Gustavus was only 16 when he became king, but left the modernization of Sweden and it’s bureaucracy to Axel Oxenstierna, who created the bureaucracy of Sweden as it still looks today.
Gustavus inherited three wars, against Russia, Poland and Denmark. With his main generals in Russia, he had to try fighting the Danes himself, and it ended in a peace in which no land was transferred, but Sweden had to pay an insane amount of money to keep present Gothenburg. Russia was beaten in 1617, and Sweden gained the land between Finland and Estonia. Poland was beaten in 1629, Livonia became Swedish, including Riga, which became the second largest city of Sweden.
While Gustavus excelled with his army, he didn’t know about building ships, which is why we have this museum of the too much cannoned Vasa ship, which sunk after a kilometre: