Sweden, one of the “three fingers” of Scandinavia,
is just larger than the state of California. It covers 173,731 square
miles (449,964 square kilometers). From the northern tip to the southern
tip it is about 1,000 miles. Thousands of tiny islands line the coast.
Mountains form much of the northwest, but most of Sweden is relatively
flat with some rollling hills. Many rivers flow from the mountains
through the forests and into the Balitc Sea. Sweden is dotted with
lakes, which, with the rivers, provide ample water for the country.
More than half of the land is forested. North of the Arctic Circle,
winters ar long and relatively cold while summers are short and pleasant.
But summer’s “midnight sun” makes the days long. Although Sweden
is located far to the north, most of the country has a relatively temperate
climate, moderated by the warm Gulf Stream. July temperatures in
Stockholm average sixty four degrees ferenheit.
Sweden has been inhabeted for nearly five
thousand years and is the home of the Gothic peoples who battled the Roman
Empire. In the ninth century, Rurik, a semilegendary chief of the
Swedes, is said to have founded Russia. Christianity was introduced
in the 11th century adn adopted by the monarchy. During the 20th
century, neutrality and nonalignment were cornerstones of Sweden’s foreign
policy, keeping it out of both world wars and allowing it to transform
its rather poor society into a prosperous social welfare state. The
Socila Democratic Party dominated politics and led every government
until 1976, when it’s rule was interrupted until 1982. With the end
of the Cold War, and increased European Union in 1995.
Sweden’s image as a peaceful, egalitarian
society, with relatively low crime, was shaken in 1986 when Prime Minister
Olof Palme was assassinated on the streets of Stockholm. Palme was
succeeded by Ingvar Carlsson of the Social Democratic Party. After
rejection of his austerity package in 1990, Carlsson resigned and led a
minority government until elections in 1991. The new prome minister,
Carl Bildt of the Moderate Party, formed a coalition government.
Bildt’s administration concentrated on economic challenges and negotiated
Sweden’s entry into the EU.