(Swedish: Sverige)

A country in north Europe, on the Scandinavian Peninsula, bounded to the west by Norway, to the north-east by Finland and the Gulf of Bothnia, to the south-east by the Baltic Sea, and to the south-west by the Kattegat.

The south of Sweden has been inhabited since about 6,000BC. The Swedish Vikings in AD 800-1060 sailed mainly to the east and founded the principality of Novogorod. In the mid-12th Century the Swedes in the north were united with the Goths in the south and accepted Christianity. A series of crusades from the 12th to the 14th Centuries brought Finland under Swedish rule. Sweden, Norway, and Denmark were untied under a Danish dynasty 1397-1520 (the Kalmar Union, q.v.). Gustavus Vasa was subsequently elected king of Sweden. The Vasa line ruled until 1818, when the French marshal Bernadotte established the present dynasty.

Sweden's teritorial ambitions led to warfare in Europe from the 16th to 18th Centuries (see Gustavus Adolphus, Thiry Years' War, Charles X, Charles XII), which left the country impoverished. Science and culture flourished, however, under the reign of Gustavus III (1771-91). Sweden lost Finland to the Russian Empire in 1809, but annexed Norway in 1814, a union only dissolved in 1905.

Sweden has a long tradition of neutrality and political stability, and like her Scandinavian neighbours, a highly developed social welfare system. The office of ombudsman is a Swedish invention, and Sweden was one of the first countries to adopt a system of open government.

The country has been a member of the European Union since 1995, and is a candidate for the European Single Currency.