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Capital Stockholm
Continent Europe
Code +46
Currency Swedish krona
Languages Swedish , Swedish


Sweden is part of the geographical area of Fennoscandia. The climate is in general mild for its northerly latitude due to significant maritime influence. Despite the high latitude, Sweden often has warm continental summers, being located in between the North Atlantic, the Baltic Sea, and vast Russia. The general climate and environment vary significantly from the south and north due to the vast latitude difference, and much of Sweden has reliably cold and snowy winters. Southern Sweden is predominantly agricultural, while the north is heavily forested and includes a portion of the Scandinavian Mountains.

Germanic peoples have inhabited Sweden since prehistoric times, emerging into history as the gates (Swedish: Götar) and Swedes (Svear) and constituting the sea peoples known as the Norsemen. An independent Swedish state emerged during the early 12th century. After the Black Death in the middle of the 14th century killed about a third of the Scandinavian population, the dominance of the Hanseatic League in Northern Europe threatened Scandinavia economically and politically. This led to the forming of the Scandinavian Kalmar Union in 1397, which Sweden left in 1523. When Sweden became involved in the Thirty Years' War on the Protestant side, an expansion of its territories began, and eventually, the Swedish Empire was formed. This became one of the great powers of Europe until the early 18th century. Swedish territories outside the Scandinavian Peninsula were gradually lost during the 18th and 19th centuries, ending with the annexation of present-day Finland by Russia in 1809. The last war in which Sweden was directly involved was in 1814 when Norway was militarily forced into a personal union, which peacefully dissolved in 1905. Since then, Sweden has been at peace, maintaining an official policy of neutrality in foreign affairs. In 2014, Sweden celebrated 200 years of peace, breaking even Switzerland's record for peace. Sweden was formally neutral through both world wars and the Cold War, although Sweden has since 2009 openly moved towards cooperation with NATO.

Sweden is a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary democracy, with legislative power vested in the 349-member unicameral Riksdag. It is a unitary state, currently divided into 21 counties and 290 municipalities. Sweden maintains a Nordic social welfare system that provides universal health care and tertiary education for its citizens. It has the world's eleventh-highest per capita income and ranks very highly in quality of life, health, education, protection of civil liberties, economic competitiveness, income equality, gender equality, prosperity, and human development. Sweden joined the European Union on 1 January 1995 but has rejected NATO membership, as well as Eurozone membership following a referendum. It is also a member of the United Nations, the Nordic Council, the Council of Europe, the World Trade Organization, and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).


Sweden's prehistory begins in the Allerød oscillation, a warm period around 12,000 BC, with Late Palaeolithic reindeer-hunting camps of the Bromme culture at the edge of the ice in what is now the country's southernmost province, Scania. This period was characterized by small bands of hunter-gatherer-fishers using flint technology.

Sweden is first described in a written source in Germania by Tacitus in 98 AD. In Germania 44 and 45 he mentions the Swedes (Suiones) as a powerful tribe (distinguished not merely for their arms and men, but their powerful fleets) with ships that had a prow at each end (longships). Which kings (Kuningan) ruled these Suiones is unknown, but Norse mythology presents a long line of legendary and semi-legendary kings going back to the last centuries BC. As for literacy in Sweden itself, the runic script was in use among the south Scandinavian elite by at least the second century AD, but all that has come down to the present from the Roman Period is curt inscriptions on artifacts, mainly of male names, demonstrating that the people of south Scandinavia spoke Proto-Norse at the time, a language ancestral to Swedish and other North Germanic languages.

In the sixth century, Jordanes names two tribes living in Scandza, both of which are now considered to be synonymous with the Swedes: the Suetidi and Sushant. Suicide is considered to be the Latin form of Svíþjóð, the Old Norse name for the Swedes. Jordanes describes the Suetidi and Dani as being of the same stock and the tallest of people. He later mentions other Scandinavian tribes as being of the same stature. The Sushant was known to the Roman world as suppliers of black fox skins and, according to Jordanes, had very fine horses, similar to those of the Thyringi of Germania (Alia Vero gens IBI mortar Suehans, equal value Syringe Equis utuntur eximiis). The Icelandic historian Snorri Sturluson also wrote that the Swedish king Adils (Eadgils) had the finest horses of his day.


Situated in Northern Europe, Sweden lies west of the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Bothnia, providing a long coastline, and forms the eastern part of the Scandinavian Peninsula. To the west is the Scandinavian mountain chain (Skanderna), a range that separates Sweden from Norway. Finland is located to its northeast. It has maritime borders with Denmark, Germany, Poland, Russia, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, and it is also linked to Denmark (south-west) by the Öresund Bridge. Its border with Norway (1,619 km long) is the longest uninterrupted border within Europe.

Sweden lies between latitudes 55° and 70° N, and mostly between longitudes 11° and 25° E (part of the Stora Drammen island is just west of 11°).

At 449,964 km2 (173,732 sq mi), Sweden is the 55th-largest country in the world, the fifth-largest country in Europe, and the largest country in Northern Europe. The lowest elevation in Sweden is in the bay of Lake Hammarsjön, near Kristianstad, at −2. 41 m (−7. 91 ft) below sea level. The highest point is Kebnekaise at 2,111 m (6,926 ft) above sea level.

Sweden has 25 provinces or landscapes, based on culture, geography, and history. While these provinces serve no political or administrative purpose, they play an important role in people's self-identity. The provinces are usually grouped into three large land, parts, the northern Norrland, the central Svealand, and southern Götaland. The sparsely populated Norrland encompasses almost 60% of the country. Sweden also has the Vindelfjällen Nature Reserve, one of the largest protected areas in Europe, totaling 562,772 ha (approx. 5,628 km2).

About 15% of Sweden lies north of the Arctic Circle. Southern Sweden is predominantly agricultural, with increasing forest coverage northward. Around 65% of Sweden's total land area is covered with forests. The highest population density is in the Öresund Region in southern Sweden, along the western coast up to central Bohuslän, and in the valley of lake Mälaren and Stockholm. Gotland and Öland are Sweden's largest islands; Vänern and Vättern are its largest lakes. Vänern is the third-largest in Europe, after Lake Ladoga and Lake Onega in Russia. Combined with the third- and fourth-largest lakes Mälaren and Hjälmaren, these lakes take up a significant part of southern Sweden's area. Sweden's extensive waterway availability throughout the south was exploited with the building of the Göta Canal in the 19th century, shortening the potential distance between the Baltic Sea south of Norrköping and Gothenburg by using the lake and river network to facilitate the canal.

Sweden also has plenty of long rivers draining the lakes. Northern and Central Sweden has several wide rivers known as älvar, commonly sourced within the Scandinavian Mountains. The longest river is Klarälven-Göta älv, which originates in Trøndelag in central Norway, running 1,160 kilometers (720 mi) before it enters the sea at Gothenburg. Dalälven and the Thorn are the second and third-longest rivers in the country. Tone marks a large part of the Finland border. In southern Sweden, narrower rivers known as åar are also common. The vast majority of municipal seats are set either on the sea, a river, or a lake and the majority of the country's population live in coastal municipalities.

Government and politics

Sweden has four fundamental laws (Swedish: Grundlagen) which together form the Constitution: the Instrument of Government (Swedish: Regeringsformen), the Act of Succession (Swedish: Successionsordningen), the Freedom of the Press Act (Swedish: Tryckfrihetsförordningen), and the Fundamental Law on Freedom of Expression (Swedish: Yttrandefrihetsgrundlagen).

The public sector in Sweden is divided into two parts: the legal person known as the State (Swedish: Staten) and local authorities: the latter includes regional County Councils (Swedish: landsting) and local Municipalities (Swedish: kommuner). The local authorities, rather than the State, make up the larger part of the public sector in Sweden. County Councils and Municipalities are independent of one another, the former merely covers a larger geographical area than the latter. The local authorities have self-rule, as mandated by the Constitution, and their tax base. Notwithstanding their self-rule, local authorities are nevertheless in a practice interdependent upon the State, as the parameters of their responsibilities and the extent of their jurisdiction are specified in the Local Government Act (Swedish: Kommunallagen) passed by the Riksdag.

Sweden is a constitutional monarchy, and King Carl XVI Gustaf is the head of state, but the role of the monarch is limited to ceremonial and representative functions. Under the provisions of the 1974 Instrument of Government, the King lacks any formal political power. The King opens the annual Riksdag session, chairs the Special Council held during a change of Government, holds regular Information Councils with the Prime Minister and the Government, chairs the meetings of the Advisory Council on Foreign Affairs (Swedish: Utrikesnämnden), and receives Letters of Credence of foreign ambassadors to Sweden and signs those of Swedish ambassadors sent abroad. In addition, the King pays State Visits abroad and receives those incoming as hosts. Apart from strictly official duties, the King and the other members of the Royal Family undertake a variety of unofficial and other representative duties within Sweden and abroad.

Legislative power is vested in the unicameral Riksdag with 349 members. General elections are held every four years, on the second Sunday of September. Legislation may be initiated by the Government or by members of the Riksdag. Members are elected based on proportional representation of a four-year term. The internal workings of the Riksdag are, in addition to the Instrument of Government, regulated by the Riksdag Act (Swedish: Riksdagsordningen). The fundamental laws can be altered by the Riksdag alone; only an absolute majority with two separate votes, separated by a general election in between, is required.

The Government (Swedish: Regeringen) operates as a collegial body with collective responsibility and consists of the Prime Minister — appointed and dismissed by the Speaker of the Riksdag (following an actual vote in the Riksdag before an appointment can be made) — and other cabinet ministers (Swedish: Statsråd), appointed and dismissed at the sole discretion of the Prime Minister. The Government is the supreme executive authority and is responsible for its actions to the Riksdag.

Most of the State administrative authorities (Swedish: statliga förvaltningsmyndigheter) report to the Government, including (but not limited to) the Armed Forces, the Enforcement Authority, the National Library, the Swedish police, and the Tax Agency. A unique feature of Swedish State administration is that individual cabinet ministers do not bear any individual ministerial responsibility for the performance of the agencies within their portfolio; as the director-generals and other heads of government agencies reports directly to the Government as a whole, and individual ministers are prohibited to interfere; thus the origin of the pejorative in Swedish political parlance term minister style (English: "ministerial rule") in matters that are to be handled by the individual agencies, unless otherwise specifically provided for in law.

The Judiciary is independent of the Riksdag, Government, and other State administrative authorities. The role of judicial review of legislation is not practiced by the courts; instead, the Council on Legislation gives non-binding opinions on legality. There is no stare decisis in that courts are not bound by precedent, although it is influential.


Sweden is the sixteenth-richest country in the world in terms of GDP (gross domestic product) per capita and a high standard of living is experienced by its citizens. Sweden is an export-oriented mixed economy. Timber, hydropower, and iron ore constitute the resource base of an economy with a heavy emphasis on foreign trade. Sweden's engineering sector accounts for 50% of output and exports, while telecommunications, the automotive industry, and the pharmaceutical industries are also of great importance. Sweden is the ninth-largest arms exporter in the world. Agriculture accounts for 2% of GDP and employment. The country ranks among the highest for telephone and Internet access penetration.

Trade unions, employers' associations, and collective agreements cover a large share of the employees in Sweden. The high coverage of collective agreements is achieved despite the absence of state mechanisms extending collective agreements to whole industries or sectors. Both the prominent role of collective bargaining and how the high rate of coverage is achieved reflect the dominance of self-regulation (regulation by the labor market parties themselves) over state regulation of Swedish industrial relations. When the Swedish Ghent system was changed in 2007, resulting in considerably raised fees for unemployment funds, a substantial decline in union density and density of unemployment funds occurred.

In 2010 Sweden's income Gini coefficient was the third-lowest among developed countries, at 0.25—slightly higher than Japan and Denmark—suggesting Sweden had low-income inequality. However, Sweden's wealth Gini coefficient of 0.853 was the second-highest in developed countries, and above European and North American averages, suggesting high wealth inequality. Even on a disposable income basis, the geographical distribution of the Gini coefficient of income inequality varies within different regions and municipalities of Sweden. Danderyd, outside Stockholm, has Sweden's highest Gini coefficient of income inequality, at 0.55, while Hofors near Gävle has the lowest at 0.25. In and around Stockholm and Scania, two of the most densely populated regions of Sweden, the income Gini coefficient is between 0.35 and 0.55. 

In terms of structure, the Swedish economy is characterized by a large, knowledge-intensive, and export-oriented manufacturing sector; an increasing, but comparatively small, business service sector; and by international standards, a large public service sector. Large organizations, both in manufacturing and services, dominate the Swedish economy. High and medium-high technology, manufacturing accounts for 9.9% of GDP.

The 20 largest (by turnover) registered Swedish companies in 2007 were Volvo, Ericsson, Vattenfall, Skanska, Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications AB, Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget, Electrolux, Volvo Personvagnar, TeliaSonera, Sandvik, Scania, ICA, Hennes & Mauritz, IKEA, Nordea, Preem, Atlas Copco, Securitas, Nordstjernan and SKF. The vast majority of Sweden's industry is privately controlled, unlike many other industrialized Western countries, and, by a historical standard, publicly owned enterprises are of minor importance.

An estimated 4.5 million Swedish residents are employed and around a third of the workforce completed tertiary education. In terms of GDP per hour-worked, Sweden was the world's ninth highest in 2006 at US$31, compared to US$22 in Spain and US$35 in the United States. GDP per hour-worked is growing 2.5% per year for the economy as a whole and the trade-terms-balanced productivity growth is 2%. According to the OECD, deregulation, globalization, and technology sector growth have been key productivity drivers. Sweden is a world leader in privatized pensions and pension funding problems are relatively small compared to many other Western European countries. A pilot program to test the feasibility of a six-hour workday, without loss of pay, will commence in 2014, involving the participation of Gothenburg municipal staff. The Swedish government is seeking to reduce its costs through decreased sick leave hours and increased efficiency.

The typical worker receives 40% of his or her labor costs after the tax wedge. Total tax collected by Sweden as a percentage of its GDP peaked at 52.3% in 1990. The country faced a real estate and banking crisis in 1990–1991 and consequently passed tax reforms in 1991 to implement tax rate cuts and tax base broadening over time. Since 1990, taxes as a percentage of GDP collected by Sweden have been dropped, with total tax rates for the highest income earners dropping the most. In 2010 45.8% of the country's GDP was collected as taxes, the second-highest among OECD countries, and nearly double the percentage in the US or South Korea. Taxable income-financed employment represents a third of the Swedish workforce, a substantially higher proportion than in most other countries. Overall, GDP growth has been fast since reforms—especially those in manufacturing—were enacted in the early 1990s.

Sweden is the fourth-most competitive economy in the world, according to the World Economic Forum in its Global Competitiveness Report 2012–2013. Sweden is the top-performing country in the 2014 Global Green Economy Index (GGEI). Sweden is ranked fourth in the IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook 2013. According to the book The Flight of the Creative Class by the US economist Professor Richard Florida of the University of Toronto, Sweden is ranked as having the best creativity in Europe for business and is predicted to become a talent magnet for the world's most purposeful workers. The book compiled an index to measure the kind of creativity, it claims, is most useful to business—talent, technology, and tolerance.

Sweden maintains its currency, the Swedish krona (SEK), a result of the Swedes having rejected the euro in a referendum. The Swedish Riksbank—founded in 1668 and thus the oldest central bank in the world—is currently focusing on price stability with an inflation target of 2%. According to the Economic Survey of Sweden 2007 by the OECD, the average inflation in Sweden has been one of the lowest among European countries since the mid-1990s, largely because of deregulation and the quick utilization of globalization.

The largest trade flows are with Germany, the United States, Norway, the United Kingdom, Denmark, and Finland.

Financial deregulation in the 1980s impacted adversely on the property market, leading to a bubble and eventually a crash in the early 1990s. Commercial property prices fell by up to two-thirds, resulting in two Swedish banks having to be taken over by the government. In the following two decades, the property sector strengthened. By 2014, legislators, economists, and the IMF was again warned of a bubble with residential property prices soaring and the level of personal mortgage debt expanding. Household debt-to-income rose above 170% as the IMF was calling on legislators to consider zoning reform and other means of generating a greater supply of housing as demand was outstripping what was available, pushing prices higher. By August 2014, 40% of home borrowers had interest-only loans while those that didn't were repaying principal at a rate that would take 100 years to fully repay.


Sweden has many authors of worldwide recognition, including August Strindberg, Astrid Lindgren, and Nobel Prize winners Selma Lagerlöf and Harry Martinson. In total seven Nobel Prizes in Literature have been awarded to Swedes. The nation's most well-known artists are painters such as Carl Larsson and Anders Zorn, and the sculptors Tobias Sergel and Carl Milles.

Swedish 20th-century culture is noted by pioneering works in the early days of cinema, with Mauritz Stiller and Victor Sjöström. In the 1920s–1980s, the filmmaker Ingmar Bergman and actors Greta Garbo and Ingrid Bergman became internationally noted people within cinema. More recently, the films of Lukas Moodysson, Lasse Hallström, and Ruben Östlund have received international recognition.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s Sweden was seen as an international leader in what is now referred to as the "sexual revolution", with gender equality having particularly been promoted. The early Swedish film I Am Curious (Yellow) (1967) reflected a liberal view of sexuality, including scenes of love making that caught international attention, and introduced the concept of the "Swedish sin" that had been introduced earlier in the US with Ingmar Bergman's Summer with Monika.

The image of "hot love and cold people" emerged. Sexual liberalism was seen as part of the modernization process that breaking down traditional borders would lead to the emancipation of natural forces and desires.

Sweden has also become very liberal towards homosexuality, as is reflected in the popular acceptance of films such as Show Me Love, which is about two young lesbians in the small Swedish town of Åmål. Since 1 May 2009, Sweden repealed its "registered partnership" laws and fully replaced them with gender-neutral marriage, Sweden also offers domestic partnerships for both same-sex and opposite-sex couples. Cohabitation (sammanboende) by couples of all ages, including teenagers as well as elderly couples, is widespread. As of 2009, Sweden is experiencing a baby boom.