• Sweden edition
 
Sweden celebrates 200 years of peace

Sweden celebrates 200 years of peace

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.
 
"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
Man shot dead in Stockholm 'execution'
Police examine the shattered window of the Audi car after a man was shot dead in Sollentuna on November 25th 2014. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer /TT

Man shot dead in Stockholm 'execution'

A 32-year-old man has been shot dead in his car in Stockholm, with witnesses describing the attack as a brutal killing. READ  

Sweden's Spotify turns up volume as losses fall
Spotify was created in 2008 in Sweden. Photo: Erik Mårtensson/TT

Sweden's Spotify turns up volume as losses fall

The world's biggest music streaming service, Spotify, has announced that its revenue grew by 74 percent in 2013 while net losses shrank by one third, in a year of spectacular expansion. READ  

Will 'hated' dating coach reach Sweden?
Julian Blanc in an image from his Facebook site. Photo: TT

Will 'hated' dating coach reach Sweden?

A viral campaign to stop controversial US dating coach visiting Sweden appeared to have been successful on Tuesday, when scheduled tour dates disappeared from Julian Blanc's website. READ  

Swedish Honeymoon Killing
Swedish honeymoon murder verdict delayed
Shrien Dewani outside the court in South Africa. Photo: TT

Swedish honeymoon murder verdict delayed

British businessman Shrien Dewani will have to wait two weeks to see whether a South African judge throws out charges that he organised the murder of his Swedish bride on their honeymoon. READ  

Housing crisis limiting Sweden's growth
A housing development in Malmö. Photo: Flikr/Anders Bengtsson

Housing crisis limiting Sweden's growth

Sweden's economy won't expand as quickly as previously expected, says the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) which has lowered its growth forecast for the country. READ  

'Swedish' street dog becomes global celebrity
Arthur arriving back in Sweden last week. Photo: TT

'Swedish' street dog becomes global celebrity

UPDATED: Tales of a stray dog who latched on to a team of Swedish athletes in Ecuador have been lapped up by international media this week. The Local has learned that a new charity is being launched in the animal's honour. READ  

Sweden reveals 2015 Eurovision hopefuls
Two of the hopefuls. Photo: TT

Sweden reveals 2015 Eurovision hopefuls

The full line-up of contestants hoping to compete for Sweden in the 2015 Eurovision Song Contest in Vienna has been announced. READ  

Fitness band is Sweden's hottest gift for 2014
Go on, you know you want one. The fitness armband has been awarded the 2014 Christmas Gift of the Year. Photo: Henrik Montgomery / TT

Fitness band is Sweden's hottest gift for 2014

The must-have gift Swedes want to find to find under their Christmas trees in 2014 is a fitness armband, according to a Swedish retail research group's annual 'Christmas Gift of the Year' prediction. READ  

Presented by Stockholm International School
SIS: the thinking behind globalised learning
Stockholm International School director Marta Krajnovic. Photo: SIS

SIS: the thinking behind globalised learning

International Education Week drew to a close last week and, the Stockholm International School (SIS) held an event looking at study abroad, multilingual education, and what really makes a school “good”. READ  

Volvo prepares for 3.7b kronor fine from EU
A Volvo truck. Photo: TT

Volvo prepares for 3.7b kronor fine from EU

Sweden's Volvo, the world's second-largest maker of trucks, is setting aside 3.7 billion kronor ($497 million, €400 million) to cover a potentially huge fine from the European Union for price rigging. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
'Racist' Black Pete party scrapped in Sweden
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Sweden's 2015 Eurovision hopefuls
Gallery
Property of the week: Rosengården
Imagebank Sweden
Society
Decorating your home for Swedish Christmas
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Sweden's Christmas gifts through the years
Blog updates

25 November

SEXUAL VIOLENCE: IT’S STILL TIME TO ACT (The Diplomatic Dispatch) »

"In 2013, a World Health Organisation report found that 35% of all women in the world..." READ »

 

24 November

Seeing into the Future of Business: Interview with Antonia Ax:son Johnson (Stockholm in my American Heart) »

"Nobody can change the world more than businesses can. This is Antonia Ax:son Johnson’s mantra and..." READ »

 
 
 
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Family life in Stockholm
Lifestyle
'I'm spreading Japan's 'cute' culture in Sweden'
National
Ebola: Sweden's leading expert speaks
National
Why this Swedish rabbi is facing death threats
National
Fears up to 300 Swedes fighting with Isis
Lifestyle
How to make Swedish mulled wine
Gallery
People-watching: November 22nd - 23rd
Society
What's on in Sweden: November 20th to 27th
National
How to boost your career in Skåne, Sweden's south
Lifestyle
How an Umeå museum is rewriting Swedish history
National
Timeline: Julian Assange sex allegations
Lifestyle
Five unique backpacker hostels in Stockholm
National
Bones show off Sweden's history
National
What new word are Swedes voting on?
National
Why African Swedes are angry about Santa's helper
National
Pine, tar, and tinder: flavours from the north
Gallery
Selfies, solidarity and Hillary Clinton: Stefan Löfven on tour
Gallery
People-watching: November 19th
Society
Why are international professionals leaving Sweden?
Business & Money
Meet the Swedes who made suits for The Hunger Games
Technology
'I'm among the first Swedes with a microchip'
National
What is Sweden doing about bird flu?
Gallery
Property of the week: Eriksberg
National
Vecka45: Sweden's most innovative week
Gallery
In Pictures: The clubs and loves of Sweden's Sven-Göran Eriksson
Society
What's On in Sweden: November 13th to 20th
Gallery
People-watching: November 16th
National
Driving (expats) home for Christmas?
Lifestyle
Make your own Swedish pea soup
Politics
"Totally unacceptable": Defence Minister on Stockholm submarine
Society
The A-Ö guide to making life in Sweden easier
National
How a Swedish party inspired a masterpiece
National
Seen the new Ace of Base yet?
National
Meet the Irish woman thundering into Swedish rock
Gallery
In Pictures: Ace of Base through the years
Society
Ten things you should never say to a Swede
Gallery
People-watching: November 12th
Business & Money
Get your own office in Gothenburg or Stockholm - free for a day
National
Opinion: 'We have to talk about Sweden's Isis fighters'
Sponsored Article
The best options for oversea transfers
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

769
jobs available
Swedish Down Town
Consulting & Productions

We are an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish authorities, Swedish language practice, and general communications.
Call 0731 004 781 or visit:
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:
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
The Local Spain is hiring!
The Local is seeking a new editor for our site in Spain to join our growing team of internationally-minded, driven, ambitious and clued-up journalists.
Details and how to apply