“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
― Edmund Burke.
Sweden or Sverige was formed in the 8th century during the Viking age. Denmark was already in place and Norway was also newly established. Not too surprisingly, Denmark and Norway were able to look westward to develop trade with the rest of Europe while Sweden remained a agrarian country pushing for land in the East, Rus. Rus hosted the inland Vikings who essentially merchants who owned trade routes to Constantinople (in Byzantium Empire) Swedes dominated the Northern Europe and East Europe until Slavnoic Russian empire rose in the middle of the 10th century. As the Arabs stagnated in technological and military development, new trade routes to the South was open leaving Baltic trade route obsolete and Sweden entered the cul-de-sac era.
The cul-de-sac era rendered Sweden rather free of foreign invasion (other than some Danish incursions), as a result, the population was homogeneous with purity in the Germanic tongue. The lack of tension meant that the Swedes became passive unlike their counter parts (Saxons, Celts, Teutons). Christianity/papacy was introduced in 1103 AD, 5 centuries after Britain, what this implied was the deprivation of internationalism which became the medieval civilizing force for Europe. This in turn left Sweden nationalistic and the isolation resulted in a peasant culture without any intellectual defenses, this had a detrimental effect which I shall discuss later.
The various tribes were finally unified in the 11th century but feudalism was established in the 14th century. The dynastic marriage united Scandinavia was formed by Queen Margrethe in 1937, however the rivalry between the 3 countries broke the union in 1523 by Gustav Vasa, the founder of modern Sweden who drove out the Danish invaders. The harsh weather made the Swedes all the more reliant on a centralized state. Each nobility is a royal functionary in their little communities to support Charles XI and many other kings to recover lost estate from alienated lands, eventually they became bureaucrats rather than as aristocrats, thus the bureaucracy of Sweden began.
After reformation, Church and State became inseparable. Prosecution of catholic were common, it began with prohibition of public service in 1595 AD then officially banned in 1617. Queen Christina, a convert of Catholicism was forced to exile in 1654. Various forms of “non-accepted” denominations were suppressed too, for instance the Baptists were deported in 1848, majority of them were relocated to the New World to escape from religious prosecution. Before 1970, religion was compulsory where all Swedes were automatically born into the State Church regardless of the conviction of their parents, withdraw from the State Church only became a right in 1952. Before then, anyone wished to leave the State Church had to be examined by clergy who most often refused the application; Religion had a monopoly on education where the “problematic” children were targeted for a soft inquisition. The theocratic Sweden again has detrimental effects which we shall examine in future blog posts in the series.
The passivity of Sweden meant it was easily bullied by neighbouring states. Swedish invasion in 1709 resulted in Russians capturing Narva, Ingria, Kexholm and Polish union. This was the first instance of the Swedish submission when it comes to facing difficulties. Soon Sweden was defeated by Norway in 1718 and followed by a chain reactions of defeat: losing Pomerania in 1814 and Norway in 1905. The passivity extended to supporting Germany in 1914 (despite claiming to be neautral) and allowing German troops access to her territories in 1939 which only stopped after the tide was turned.
Being stuck in middle age mindset, renaissance never occurred in Sweden which belonged to Western Europe. The individuality associated with renaissance was viewed as a threat to the state and was suppressed heavily. It’s lack of cultural defence meant that any incoming new ideas were absorbed without proper digestion as we have seen today, it resembles a retarded society hurriedly trying to assimilating a stronger civilization without the same capacity for doing so. Evidently we could see such mindset through the cinema of Sweden such as the Seventh Seal by Ingmar Bergamn being a typical example of individual values and spontaneity overshadowed by a dark, oppressive sense of destiny. All in all, Sweden is a collectivist society since its development.
*Above post is a summary of The New Totalitarians by Roland Huntford (1971), you can find the book here: http://eindtijdinbeeld.nl/EiB-Bibliotheek/Boeken/The_New_Totalitarians__Brave_New_Sweden___1980_.pdf