• Sweden edition
 
Sweden celebrates 200 years of peace

Sweden celebrates 200 years of peace

Published: 15 Aug 2014 09:23 GMT+02:00
Updated: 15 Aug 2014 09:23 GMT+02:00

Precisely 200 years ago, on August 15th, 1814, Sweden entered a new era of peace. The last battle took its final breath on August 14th after the signing of the Convention of Moss, ending a brief war with Norway sparked by the nation declaring its independence.

The war would be Sweden's last.

"Sweden as a nation has not participated in war for 200 years," Peter Wallensteen, senior professor of peace and conflict research at Uppsala University, told The Local.
 
How has Sweden managed to stayed out of war for two entire centuries?
 
"Primarily by luck," Foreign Minister Carl Bildt told The Local on Friday.
 
Wallensteen pointed out that Sweden has contributed forces to UN peacekeeping operations, has an active military and a thriving arms industry, and that the definition of peace is debatable.
 
Nor does avoiding war mean that Sweden is officially neutral. Sweden left its policy of neutrality  when it joined the EU in 1995, opting instead for "non-alignment". 
 
"But there is an absence of the use of political violence in the country, no international wars, no civil wars, and no military coups," Wallensteen explained.
 
Due to Switzerland's unfortunate civil war in 1847, Wallensteen said, Sweden's tally even beats the capital of neutrality.
 
All of the Scandinavian nations had a chance at taking the prize longest reign of peace, Wallensteen said, since they stayed out of the first world war. It was during World War II that things started falling apart.
 
Sweden never officially took a side in World War II - but the nation has received harsh international criticism for letting the Nazis use Swedish railways to travel to and from Germany and Finland from invaded neighbour Norway, questioning the image of neutrality and indeed casting a light of shame and cowardice upon the country.
 
 
But historians say Sweden did not favour Germany. Rather, Sweden took the most non-confrontational stance it could.
 
During the war posters were hung on building walls with a yellow and blue tiger, and the words "en svensk tiger" - translating both as "a Swedish tiger" and "a Swede keeps his mouth shut".
 
According to Wallensteen, this attitude is not native, but learned. 
 
"Politicians realized as far back as 1905, after the treaty with Norway, that war creates lasting animosity. But solutions create lasting cooperation where everybody benefits."
 
Today Swedes have a reputation for being reserved and non-confrontational. How did the war-faring Vikings and mighty kings of the late Empire of Sweden transform into humble striped cats?
 
"I think that Swedes have learned it doesn't pay to engage in violent conflict," Wallensteen told The Local. "There is an attitude of strong conflict awareness. There is a willingness to find solutions that work, solutions that are pragmatic, practical, and rational."
 
The Swedish climate of compromise, Wallensteen said, grew from experience.
 
"People do take a stand, but they do not take a stand so incompatible with others that discussion becomes impossible. Due to long historical experience, Swedes are willing to open up to negotiation."
 
Wallensteen said that the paradigm shift made a difference not just on the international scale and in peace-keeping issues, but also on the domestic front.
 
"I think there was a cultural shift away from viewing war as honourable and great to a much more civilian understanding of what is good in society," Wallensteen said. 
 
"And in the Swedish case that means work hard, develop new industries, build welfare, be involved in national affairs... These kinds of values have gradually become more important than being engaged in military operations."
 
But will the "peace" - or simply war avoidance - continue? 
 
"Peace must be created, secured, and continuously nurtured by dialogue and diplomacy," Bildt told The Local. 
 
"Prediction is difficult," Wallensteen said after brief hesitation. "But I hope so. There is an atmosphere of inclusivity, a willingness in Sweden to integrate everyone and build a tolerant society."
 
Sweden's terror threat level has remained "high" since a botched suicide bombing in Stockholm in 2010. Reverberations from the riots of 2013 are still being felt. Anti-Semitism is on the rise, and an increasing number of Swedes are engaging in violent extremism abroad.
 
 
"All that was happening before as well," Wallensteen remarked.
 
"The important thing is how society as a whole reacts to it - and society is clearly against it and tries to make counter moves. In the riots, for instance, counter moves include integration projects instead of sending in police. It's a classical Swedish way of dealing with things."
 
Wallensteen said it would be interesting to see how the extremist Swedes fighting abroad would be handled.
 
"But again, I think the solution is to think about it in terms of prevention, what went wrong, and what we need to do better."
 
Foreign Minister Carl Bildt stressed that peace in Sweden is not the only priority in the globalized society of today, however - and Sweden cannot float on the status quo, but must engage actively to continue peace.
 
"Let's not forget that peace is far away in many places," Bildt told The Local.
 
"Europe is in the most difficult strategic times that I can remember. The situation is extremely fragile to the east and to the south. The Syrian war has created a massive humanitarian disaster, and the recent developments in Iraq are also alarming."
 
"In this respect, let's hope the coming 200 years will be more successful for the world than the previous ones."
 
The Local hit the streets of Stockholm to ask Swedes what they thought about war, peace, and neutrality in their homeland. Read their responses here.
 

Solveig Rundquist
Follow Solveig on Twitter

For more stories about Sweden, join us on Facebook and Twitter

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Sport
Sweden's star striker Zlatan 'recovering well'
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is Sweden's top scorer in history. PHOTO: TT/Maja Suslin

Sweden's star striker Zlatan 'recovering well'

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is recovering well from the nagging heel problem that has stopped him playing for Sweden during its Euro 2016 qualifying campaign. READ  

International
Swedish sisters create viral Syria stir
A shot from the video on YouTube.

Swedish sisters create viral Syria stir

Two sisters from Södertälje near Stockholm are celebrating getting more than 1.3 million hits on YouTube, with a video calling for peace in war-torn Syria. READ  

Pirate Bay
Pirate Bay founder gets three years in prison
A 2013 image of Svartholm Warg. Photo: TT

Pirate Bay founder gets three years in prison

Swedish "hactivist" Gottfrid Svartholm Warg has been sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison for hacking crimes. READ  

Royal family
Princess Madeleine to make Nobel comeback
Princess Madeleine at a previous Nobel banquet. Photo: TT

Princess Madeleine to make Nobel comeback

Sweden's Princess Madeleine is scheduled to appear at the Nobel Festival in Stockholm in December, after taking time out from her royal duties to focus on looking after her daughter. READ  

Politics
'We knew that Israel would be critical'
Foreign Minister Margot Wallström (left), with Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Löfven. Photo: TT

'We knew that Israel would be critical'

Sweden's Foreign Minister has told The Local she respects Israel's decision to recall its ambassador after Sweden officially recognized the State of Palestine, and laughed off comments about IKEA furniture made by her Israeli counterpart. READ  

Analysis
'Store up your sunlight hours before winter'
Doctors say we should make the most of the autumn sunshine. Photo: Shutterstock

'Store up your sunlight hours before winter'

Spending time outdoors this autumn will help you survive a cold, dark Swedish winter. Baba Pendse, Head of Psychiatry at Lund University shares his top tips for battling the seasonal blues with The Local. READ  

Sports
Plot for shared Scandi Winter Olympic bid
Skiers hit the slopes in Åre, western Sweden. Photo: TT

Plot for shared Scandi Winter Olympic bid

Norwegian sports officials have said they want to co-host the winter Olympics with Sweden in 2026. But there has so far been no official response from Sweden. READ  

National
Anti-Israel graffiti 'not a race crime': Court
Photo: TT

Anti-Israel graffiti 'not a race crime': Court

A teenage boy who painted anti-Israel slogans and symbols on the Concert Hall in Gothenburg has been convicted for the damages he caused, but he walked free from racial agitation charges. READ  

Entertainment
A closer look at Sweden's rising stars
Swedish actresses Sandra Huldt and Julia Ragnarsson. Julia (right) has been nominated for a Rising Star award. Photo: TT

A closer look at Sweden's rising stars

Like to be ahead of the game when it comes to the next big thing on the silver screen? We find out more about the Swedish nominees for the Rising Star award to be presented at Stockholm's International Film Festival next week. READ  

Science
Swedish women in two-year sex pill study
Contraceptive pills have been linked to mood swings. Photo: Shutterstock

Swedish women in two-year sex pill study

Three hundred women from across Sweden are taking part in a study designed to demonstrate that modern contraceptive pills don't lead to decreased libido or mood swings. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Lifestyle
Stockholm's shocking take on Halloween
Sport
Top ten quotes from Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Business & Money
Get your own office in Gothenburg or Stockholm - free for a day
Gallery
People-watching: October 30th
National
Sweden remains fourth best for gender equality
Blog updates

31 October

Editor’s Blog, October 31st (The Local Sweden) »

"Hello readers, Welcome to our latest 60-second round-up of the week’s news. First, Sweden made headlines around the..." READ »

 

29 October

Scariest day (Blogweiser) »

"This is what’s frightening me on Halloween. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D4OFZVCu8J0&list=UUJu5J7jG4uoYSjWbpFsJBuQ Follow my posts on FB. ..." READ »

 
 
 
National
Timeline: Julian Assange sex allegations
Sport
World Cup ski race on 'fake' Stockholm slope
Society
An Arctic tradition: hunting and handicraft
Society
Stockholm taxis offer free therapy sessions
National
The Local meets Health Minister Gabriel Wikström
Gallery
Property of the week: Österåker
Society
Homeless turtles get Stockholm police ride
National
Construction worker has 'Sweden's best beard'
National
Italian musician jazzes up Sweden's Lapland
Gallery
Zlatan's career in pictures
Finest.se
Gallery
People-watching: October 25th and 26th
Lifestyle
'Swedes are funnier than they think'
National
Swedish town 'like Venice' after heavy rains
Lifestyle
What's On in Sweden: October 24th - 31st
Gallery
People-watching: October 22nd
Gallery
In Pictures: Prince Carl Philip and Sofia Hellqvist
Lifestyle
Eight things to love about renting a Swedish apartment
National
Vasa ship cannon blasted in Sweden
National
Sub hunt: Day-by-day
National
Sub hunt: Stockholm islanders share their fears with The Local
Sponsored Article
The best options for oversea transfers
National
Dentist gives free care to Roma beggars
Gallery
Property of the week: Malmö
Gallery
PHOTOS: 'Foreign activity' in Swedish waters
TT
Society
QUIZ: How good is your Swedish?
Society
The nudity... and nine other things expat men notice in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 15th
Gallery
Your views: Should outdoor smoking be banned in Sweden?
Business & Money
Sweden has 'large hole' in finances
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Finding a job in Stockholm
Society
Monster salmon caught in northern Sweden
Gallery
Property of the week: Lorensberg
National
Scandinavia's child bride
National
Ebola crisis: How is Sweden preparing?
Business & Money
How Sweden is becoming a cashless society
Gallery
Stockholm Burlesque Festival 2014
National
How a little red horse became a symbol for Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 12th
Business & Money
The hottest start-ups from southern Sweden
National
Stockholm is 'best' region for well-being
Sponsored Article
How to catch the first lobster of the year
Team SCA
Sponsored Article
All-female SCA team takes off on Volvo Ocean Race
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

989
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
http://psdmedia.se
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
AA-EUROPE.ORG/SWEDEN