• Sweden's news in English
 
app_header_v3
Sweden celebrates 200 years of peace

Sweden celebrates 200 years of peace

The Local · 15 Aug 2014, 09:23

Published: 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.
Story continues below…
 
"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 news from Sweden, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Meat-free days soaring in Swedish schools
Meat-free days are up by as much as 80 percent in Swedish schools. Photo: Lunds Universitet/TT

The number of Swedish schools ditching meat has grown significantly according to a study of municipal environmental credentials by a sustainability magazine.

Why these recalled Ikea drawers ‘can result in death’
Ikea demonstrates the potential danger at a news conference in Washington. Photo: Carolyn Kaster/AP/TT

Swedish furniture giant Ikea said on Tuesday that 35 million chests and dresser units recalled in North America can 'result in death or injuries to children' if not properly anchored.

The Local List
Five things to do in Stockholm when it empties for summer
Photo: Henrik Trygg/visitstockholm.com

The Swedish capital can feel a bit empty during the summer, but fear not, there are ways to enjoy it.

Brexit: Swedes in the UK
'My Swedish friends and I talk about moving to Scotland'
Moving further north is one post-Brexit option touted by a UK-based Swede The Local spoke to. Photo: Photo: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP/TT Hasse Holmberg/TT

The Local speaks to UK-based Swedes on the impact they think Brexit will have on their lives and their future plans in the country.

Sweden wins seat on UN Security Council
Foreign Minister Margot Wallström and UN Ambassador Olof Skoog beam as Sweden wins its seat. Photo: Pontus Lundahl

A dream come true for Sweden's government.

Swedish billionaire missing at sea
Christer Ericsson has been missing since Monday. Photo: Leif R Jansson/TT

A high profile Swedish businessman is missing at sea after a boat accident near Marstrand off the Gothenburg coast.

Ikea to recall chests of drawers after child deaths
The drawers are only being recalled in the US and Canada. Photo: Cornelius Poppe/NTB scanpix/TT

The Swedish furniture giant will recall a popular chest of drawers model in North America after six children were crushed to death.

Swedish stocks rebound from post-Brexit collapse
The interior of the Stockholm Stock Exchange. Photo: Fredrik Sanberg/TT

On Tuesday the Stockholm Stock Exchange started to bounce back from a Brexit-inspired worst day of trading since 1986.

Man shot dead in Stockholm suburb
A police technician examines the scene in Tensta. Photo: Johan Jeppsson/TT

Swedish police were kept busy on Monday night after a fatal shooting in Stockholm, an attempted murder in Malmö, and a spate of car fires in Gothenburg.

Euro 2016
The humble Swede who sent England home from Euro 2016
Iceland's Swedish coach Lars Lagerbäck. Photo: Ciaran Farey/AP/TT

Is Swede Lars Lagerbäck, who guided Iceland to victory over England at Euro 2016, the world's best football coach?

Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
Gallery
Property of the week: Torhamn
Sponsored Article
5 reasons you should try dating with The Inner Circle
International
'A morning of sorrow': Sweden reacts to Brexit vote
International
Sweden opposition cools talk of 'Swexit' poll
Blog updates

28 June

A message for British expats in Sweden (The Diplomatic Dispatch) »

"The people of the United Kingdom have voted to leave the European Union. As Prime Minister…" READ »

 

10 June

i lördags, på lördag – time phrases for present, past and future (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hejsan! Swedish time phrases can be difficult to master. It takes a lot of practice to…" READ »

 
 
 
Sponsored Article
How to find student housing in Malmö: 5 tips
International
'Devastated' - Brits in Sweden shocked by Brexit vote
Sponsored Article
Stockholm school celebrates Nepal Project success
Gallery
People-watching: June 22nd
Private
The Local Voices
'Swedes don't treat me differently because I wear a hijab'
Culture
How do Swedes celebrate Midsummer?
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Culture
Coming soon: Sweden’s smelly fermented fish
Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
National
Assange lawyer: Sweden should recognize UN opinion
Private
The Local Voices
Why is this Syrian dentist who hugs like a Swede worried about undies?
Sponsored Article
Education abroad: How to find an international school
Swedish nationalist 'shot and ate' lion and giraffe
Sponsored Article
The man behind Sweden's biggest music festival
Analysis & Opinion
'Sweden's residency revamp is harmful and inhumane'
Photo: The Local
The Local Voices
UNHCR boss: 'It's hard to start your life without your family'
Sponsored Article
US expats: Have you met your tax deadlines?
Politics
VIDEO: Brits in Europe say why UK should stay
Sponsored Article
Malmö: Home to the best food in Sweden?
Photo: Marko Risović
The Local Voices
World Refugee Day: Searching for safety in Europe - in pictures
Sponsored Article
VIDEO: Why Malmö is the world's 6th best city for biking
National
Is Swedish nationalists’ foreign food ban bananas?
Sponsored Article
5 reasons you should try dating with The Inner Circle
Gallery
Property of the week: Söråker
International
Poll shows huge support for EU in Sweden
Sponsored Article
6 simple travel hacks that will make your life easier
The Local Voices
How a Syrian scuba diver mobilized Sweden's biggest asylum centre
Sport
Zlatan: 'If we'd been fighting for real, he'd be in hospital'
The Local Voices
Orlando reflections: Is it possible to be gay and Muslim?
Sweden to go ahead with migrant age tests
Gallery
People-watching: June 17th-19th
3,281
jobs available
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:
psdmedia.se