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Sweden - one of Europe's highest living standards
Posted on Thursday, June 22 @ 15:13:11 PDT by classiclady
The Kingdom of Sweden (Swedish: Konungariket Sverige (help·info)) is a Nordic country in Scandinavia. It is bordered by Norway in the west, Finland in the northeast, the
Skagerrak Strait and the Kattegat Strait in the southwest, and the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Bothnia in the east. Sweden has a low population density except in its metropolitan areas, with most of the inland consisting of forests. The country has large natural resources of water, timber, and iron ore. Its citizens enjoy a high standard of living in a country that is generally perceived as clean, modern, and liberal.
Following the end of the Viking Age, Sweden became part of the Kalmar Union together with Denmark and Norway (Finland at this time was a part of the Swedish kingdom). Sweden left the union in the beginning of the 16th century, and more or less constantly battled its neighbours for many years, especially Russia and the still united Denmark-Norway,
which never completely accepted Sweden leaving the union. In the 17th and 18th centuries Sweden extended its territory through warfare and became a Great Power, twice its current size. By 1814 Sweden had lost its empire as well as Finland, previously an integral part of the Kingdom of Sweden. Since 1814, Sweden has been at peace, adopting a non-aligned foreign policy in peacetime and neutrality in wartime.
Sweden had been a major European exporter of iron, copper and timber since the middle ages. However, improved transportation and communication allowed it to utilize natural assets from different parts of the country on a far larger scale, most notably timber and iron ore. Economic liberalization as well as universal schooling contributed to the rapid industrialization and by the 1890s the country had begun to develop an advanced manufacturing industry. In the 20th century a welfare state began to emerge. Today, Sweden is a generally considered a modern post-industrial country dominated by social liberal political ideas.
A major power
The Swedish Empire in 1658 (orange) overlaid by present day Sweden (red).Further information: Rise of Sweden as a Great Power, Swedish Empire, Sweden and the Great Northern War, Absolute Monarchy in Sweden, Sweden-Finland, and Union between Sweden and Norway
The 17th century saw the rise of Sweden as one of the great powers in Europe, due to successful participation, initiated by King Gustav II Adolph, in the Thirty Years' War and by Charles X Gustav of Sweden in the The Deluge of Poland. Mighty as it was, it crumbled in the 18th century with Imperial Russia taking the reins of northern Europe in the Great Northern War, and finally in 1809 when the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland was created out of the eastern half of Sweden.
After Denmark was defeated in the Napoleonic wars, Norway was ceded to Sweden in the Treaty of Kiel. Norway had meanwhile declared itself independent and this led to the Campaign against Norway, which was fought in 1814. It ended with the Convention of Moss, which forced Norway into a union with Sweden that was not dissolved until 1905. But the campaign also signified the last of the Swedish wars and its 200 years of peace are arguably unique in the world today.
The 18th and 19th centuries saw a significant population increase, which the writer Esaias Tegnér in 1833 famously attributed to "the peace, the (smallpox) vaccine, and the potatoes", with the population doubling between 1750 and 1850. The large families meant that the farms and homesteads were becoming smaller and smaller, as the children inherited the land from their parents and split it between themselves. The result was poverty and massive emigration; it is believed that between 1850 and 1910 more than one million Swedes moved to the United States. In the early 20th century, more Swedes lived in Chicago than in Gothenburg (Sweden's second largest city).
Sweden was traditionally less developed than Western Europe (though more affluent than much of Eastern and Southern Europe); industrialisation began in earnest only after 1870. During the late 19th century, Sweden was influenced by protestant temperance movements, mainly of American origin. As a result of their intense propaganda, it is often claimed that alcohol consumption was unusually high in Sweden at this time. However, there is no factual ground for believing that alcohol consumption was higher than in other comparable countries.
Strong grassroots movements sprung up during the latter half of the 19th century (unions, temperance groups, and independent religious groups). They were all based on democratic principles and built a strong base for Sweden's migration into a modern parliamentary democracy, achieved by the time of World War I. As the Industrial Revolution progressed during the century, people gradually began moving into cities to work in factories, and became involved in Socialist unions. A Socialist revolution was avoided in 1917, following the re-introduction of Parliamentarism, and the country was democratized.
By the 1930s Sweden had achieved one of Europe's highest living standards.
Sweden remained neutral during World War I and World War II, although its neutrality during World War II has been disputed, as it made concessions to both sides during the war. (See further Sweden during World War II)
Following the war, Sweden took advantage of its natural resources and lack of war damage, making it possible to expand its industry to supply the rebuilding of Europe, leading it to be one of the richest countries in the world by 1960. Sweden was part of the Marshall Plan but continued to stay non-aligned during the Cold War, and is still not a member of any military alliance. During most of the post-war era, the country was ruled by the Swedish Social Democratic Party that established a welfare state, striving for a "well being for all"-policy. Following a recession in the early 1990s some socialist policies were relaxed. Sweden, despite its officially neutral stance, joined the European Union in 1995, arguing that neutrality was less important in the post-Cold War world. However, in a 2003 consultative referendum, Swedish citizens declined to adopt the Euro.
As other economies were re-established, Sweden was surpassed in the 1970s and had to adjust its politics in the 1990s; however, it still ranks among the top nations in terms of standard of living.
Sweden has had two political murders in recent history. Prime-Minister Olof Palme in 1986, and foreign-minister Anna Lindh in 2003.
Sweden enjoys a mostly temperate climate despite its northern latitude, mainly due to the Gulf Stream. In the south of Sweden leaf-bearing trees are prolific, in the north pines, spruces and hardy birches dominate the landscape. In the mountains of northern Sweden a sub-Arctic climate predominates. North of the Arctic Circle, the sun never sets for part of each summer, and in the winter, night is unending for a corresponding period. The country is similar in size to the U.S. state of California, and has roughly three times the population of the city of Los Angeles.
East of Sweden lies the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Bothnia, providing a long coastline, and mellowing the climate further yet. To the west is the Scandinavian mountain chain, a range that separates Sweden from Norway.
The southern part of the country is predominantly agricultural, with forests covering a larger percentage of the land the further north one goes. Population density is also higher in southern Sweden, with centres being in the valley of lake Mälaren and the Öresund region.
Gotland and Öland are the largest islands of Sweden.
Sweden is divided into 21 counties or län. They are Stockholm County, Uppsala County, Södermanland County, Östergötland County, Jönköping County, Kronoberg County, Kalmar County, Gotland County, Blekinge County, Skåne County, Halland County, Västra Götaland County, Värmland County, Örebro County, Västmanland County, Dalarna County, Gävleborg County, Västernorrland County, Jämtland County, Västerbotten County and Norrbotten County.
Each has a County Administrative Board or länsstyrelse which is appointed by the Government. In each county there is also a separate County Council or landsting, which is the municipal representation appointed by the county electorate. Each county further divides into a number of municipalities or kommuner, making a total of 290 municipalities, in 2004. There are also older historical divisions of Sweden, primarily into the 25 provinces and three lands. These divisions are still significant.
Sweden has one of the world's highest life expectancies. As of approximately August 12, 2004, the total population of Sweden for the first time exceeded 9,000,000, according to the SCB. As of February 2006, the population was 9,060,430. About 86.7% of the population is ethnically Swedish. The largest non-ethnically Swedish groups are the Finns, who make up about 2% of the population. Other large ethnical groups are Scandinavian countries; former Yugoslavia, and the Middle East. An additional group that has a strong say based on tradition is the indigenous Sami people, living in northern Sweden and amounting to circa 17,000.
Sweden has been transformed from a nation of emigration ending after World War I to a nation of immigration from World War II onwards. Currently, almost 12% of the residents are born abroad, and about one fifth of Sweden's population are either immigrants or the children of immigrants. The largest immigrant groups are from Finland, the former Yugoslavia, Iraq and then other Nordic Countries, in that order. This reflects the inter-Nordic migrations, earlier periods of labour immigration, and later decades of refugee and family immigration.
Soviet intervention against the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and the 1968 Czechoslovak liberalization resulted in the first surges of intellectual political refugees. Some American deserters from the Vietnam War also found refuge among the Swedes, who in international politics took a clear stand against what they typically viewed as imperialism executed by both the Soviet Union and the United States of America. After the 1973 coup in Chile, and the following military dictatorships in Chile and other South American countries, political refugees came to dominate the image of immigration to Sweden, including refugees from Iran, Iraq and Palestine.
Swedish is a North Germanic language, related and very similar to to Danish and Norwegian, but differing in pronunciation and orthography. Sweden has no official language but Swedish holds a de facto status as such. The dominant language has always been Swedish and there has previously never been a political need to make it an official language. However, with the recognition of five minority languages of Sweden (Finnish, Meänkieli, Sami, Romani and Yiddish) on April 1, 2000, the issue of whether Swedish should be declared the official language was raised. On December 7, 2005, the parliament voted on this issue, but with a count of 147 to 145 due to voting errors by some members of parliament the proposal to make Swedish the official language failed. It was, however, strengthened as the principal language in that same proposal.
A majority of Swedes, especially those under 60, are able to understand and speak English thanks to trade links, the popularity of overseas travel, a strong Anglo-American influence and the tradition of subtitling rather than dubbing foreign television shows and films. English became a compulsory subject for secondary school students studying natural sciences as early as 1849 and has been a compulsory subject for all Swedish students since the late 1940s . Depending on the local school authorities, English is currently a compulsory subject from first until ninth grade, and all students continuing in secondary school study English for at least another year. Most students also learn one and sometimes two additional languages; the most popular being Spanish, German and French.
Sweden is a constitutional monarchy, in which King Carl XVI Gustaf is head of state, but royal power has long been limited to official and ceremonial functions.
The nation's legislature is the Swedish Parliament (Riksdag), with 349 members. Parliamentary elections are held every four years.
The Riksdag in Stockholm
Inside the RiksdagLegislation may be initiated by the Cabinet or by members of Parliament. Members are elected on the basis of proportional representation for a four-year term. The Constitution of Sweden can be altered by the Riksdag, which requires a supermajority and confirmation after the following general elections. Sweden has three other constitutional laws: the Act of Royal Succession, the Freedom of Press Act and the Fundamental Law on Freedom of Expression.
The Swedish Social Democratic Party has played a leading political role since 1917, after Reformists had confirmed their strength and the revolutionaries left the party. After 1932, the Cabinets have been dominated by the Social Democrats. Only three general elections (1976,1979 and 1991) have given the centre-right bloc enough seats in Parliament to form a government. It is considered the reason for the Swedish post-war welfare state, with a government expenditure of slightly more than 50% of the gross domestic product.
In May 2006, the following political parties held seats in the Riksdag (the most recent elections were held in September 2002; the next elections will be held in September 2006):
Socialdemokraterna (s, Social Democrats): 144 seats, 39.8% of votes
Moderaterna (m, Moderates): 55 seats, 15.2% of votes
Folkpartiet liberalerna (fp, Liberal Party): 48 seats, 13.3% of votes
Kristdemokraterna (kd, Christian Democrats): 33 seats, 9.1% of votes
Vänsterpartiet (v, Left Party): 28 seats, 8.3% of votes
Centerpartiet (c, Centre Party): 22 seats, 6.1% of votes
Miljöpartiet (mp, Greens): 17 seats, 4.6% of votes
(There are also 2 members of parliament who have left their respective parties during this term and are therefore not counted above.)
Sweden has a history of strong political involvement by ordinary people through its "popular movements" (Folkrörelser in Swedish), the most notable being trade unions, the women's movement, the temperance movement, and -- more recently -- sports movement. Election turnout in Sweden has always been high in international comparisons, although it has declined in recent decades, and is currently around 80 percent (80.11 in Sweden general election, 2002).
Some Swedish political figures that have become known worldwide include Joe Hill, Carl Skoglund, Raoul Wallenberg, Folke Bernadotte, Dag Hammarskjöld, Olof Palme, Carl Bildt, Hans Blix, and Anna Lindh.
After the 1973 oil crisis, the energy politics were determined to become less dependent on the import of petroleum. Since then, electricity has been generated mostly from hydropower and nuclear power. Sweden wants to be independent of petroleum use by 2020. Accidents at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station (USA) prompted the Swedish parliament in 1980 after a referendum to decide that no further nuclear power plants should be built and that a nuclear power phase-out should be completed by 2010. As of 2005, the use of renewables amounted to 26% of the energy supply in Sweden, most important being hydropower and biomass. In 2003, electricity from hydropower accounted for 53 TWh and 40% of the country's production of electricity with nuclear power delivering 65 TWh (49%). At the same time, the use of biofuels, peat etc. produced 13 TWh of electricity .
In March 2005, an opinion poll showed that 83% supported maintaining or increasing nuclear power. Since then however, reports about radioactive leakages at a nuclear waste store in Forsmark, Sweden, have been published # . This doesn't seem to have changed the public support of continued use of nuclear power.
Sweden decided to phase out nuclear fission before 2020, although it is very unlikely that this will happen.,
Throughout the 20th century, Swedish foreign policy was based on the principle of non-alignment in peacetime, neutrality in wartime.
During Cold War era politics, Sweden was not under the Warsaw Pact and received only minimal aid from the Marshall Plan. Sweden was also known to be the first western nation to detect unusually high radiation levels in the atmosphere, which later was confirmed to have been the residual nuclear fallout from the Chernobyl accident. However, a Swedish DC-3 was shot down over the Baltic sea. Later investigations revealed that the plane was actually gathering information for the NATO. Another plane, a Catalina search and rescue craft, was sent out a few days later and shot down by the Soviets as well.
Since 1995 Sweden has been a member of the European Union, and as a consequence of a new world security situation the country's foreign policy doctrine has been partly modified, with Sweden playing a more active role in European security cooperation as well.
Sweden is also very active in international peace efforts, especially through the United Nations, and in support to the Third World.
The standard of living has become markedly high under Sweden's social democratic system. The economy features a modern distribution system, excellent internal and external communications, and a skilled labour force. Timber, hydropower, and iron ore constitute the resource base of an economy heavily oriented toward foreign trade.
The engineering sector accounts for 50% of output and exports. The public and the trade unions controlled pension funds, non-profit organizations and the reserve funds of the trade-unions owns more than 50% of Sweden capital. 80% of the workforce is organized through the trade-unions. The public sector accounts for 53% of the GDP. Trade unions have the right to elect two representatives to the board in all Swedish companies with more than 25 employees. Agriculture accounts for only 2% of GDP and 2% of the jobs. The government's commitment to fiscal discipline resulted in a substantial budgetary surplus in 2001, which was cut by more than half in 2002, due to the global economic slowdown, revenue declines, and spending increases. The Swedish Riksbank is focusing on price stability with its inflation target of 2%. Growth is expected to reach 3.3% in 2006, assuming a continued global recovery. Swedish unemployment figures are highly contested with the social-democratic government claiming that the figure is 5.6% and the opposition claiming it is much higher. The official statistics on unemployment is 5.6% for 2004 these numbers do not however include unemployed people in government programs, people on extended sick-leave and people in different welfare programs. Unemployment is thought to be closer to 11% when using a system of measurement similar to that of other European nations and the United States. Sweden is known for having an even distribution of income, with a Gini coefficient at 0.21 in 2001 (one of the most even income distributions in the industrialized world).
Hjalmar Branting, the first social democratic Prime Minister of Sweden.
What is known as the Scandinavian model is usually described as a middle way between socialism and capitalism and is regarded by its proponents as the most developed form of capitalism.
The state provides for tax-funded childcare, parental leave, a ceiling on health care costs, tax-funded education (all levels up to, and including university), retirement pensions, tax-funded dental care up to 20 years of age and sick leave (partly paid by the employer). Parents are entitled to a total of 480 days partly paid leave between birth and the child's eighth birthday, with 60 days reserved specifically for each parent, in effect providing the father with two so called "daddy-months". In addition, the ceiling on health care costs makes it easier, relative to other nations, for Swedish workers to take time off for medical reasons.
The Swedish welfare system remains generous, but a recession in the 1990s forced an introduction of a number of reforms, such as education vouchers in 1992 and decentralisation of some types of healthcare services to municipal control .
The welfare state requires high taxes, but the population generally supports this. Sweden has a two step progressive tax scale with a municipal income tax of about 30% and an additional high-income state tax of 20-25% when a salary exceeds roughly 300 000 SEK per year. The employing company pays an additional 32% of so called Employers fee. In addition, a national VAT of 25% is added to many things bought by private citizens except food (12% VAT) and transports and books (6% VAT). Certain items are taxed at higher rates, e.g. petrol/diesel, new cars and alcoholic beverages.
As part of its social welfare system, Sweden provides an extensive childcare system that guarantees a place for all young children from 1-5 years old in a public day-care facility. Between ages 6-16, children attend compulsory comprehensive school. After completing the ninth grade, 90% continue with a three year upper secondary school leading sometimes to a vocational diploma and always to the qualifications for further studies at a university or university college (högskola).
Traditional Swedish houses in the rural countryside, painted in the traditional Swedish Falu red.Main article: Culture of Sweden
Swedish authors of worldwide recognition include Henning Mankell, Carolus Linnaeus (the father of botany), Emanuel Swedenborg, August Strindberg, Selma Lagerlöf, Vilhelm Moberg, Harry Martinson and Astrid Lindgren, the author of the beloved Pippi Longstocking books.
Sweden's most well-known artists are painters Carl Larsson, Anders Zorn, and Alexander Roslin, and the sculptors Tobias Sergel and Carl Milles.
Many well-known inventions and discoveries, historical and modern, were made by Swedes. Some notable figures are Alfred Nobel, Anders Celsius, Baltzar von Platen, Carl Wilhelm Scheele, Jöns Jakob Berzelius, John Ericsson, Anders Jonas Ångström, Lars Magnus Ericsson, Svante Arrhenius, Arvid Carlsson, Håkan Lans.
Swedish 20th century culture is noted by pioneering works in the early days of cinema, with Mauritz Stiller and Victor Sjöström. In the 1920s–1980s, the filmmakers Ingmar Bergman and Bo Widerberg received Academy Awards, and actresses Greta Garbo, Ingrid Bergman, Ann-Margret, Lena Olin, Zarah Leander, and Anita Ekberg made careers abroad. The actors Max von Sydow and Peter Stormare are also worth mentioning. More recently, the films of Lukas Moodysson and Lasse Hallström have received international recognition.
Ebba Grön, early Swedish punk bandThe best-known opera singers are the 19th century soprano Jenny Lind and the 20th century tenor Jussi Björling, who had great success abroad. Björling is considered by many to be the epitome of a great tenor. Also sopranos Christina Nilsson, Birgit Nilsson, and tenor Nicolai Gedda, baritone Håkan Hagegård and the contemporary mezzo-soprano Anne-Sofie von Otter have become known in the world of opera.
Some of the most successful Swedish popular music artists are ABBA, Europe, Roxette, Ace of Base, Army of Lovers, Robyn, The Cardigans, and guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen. A number of bands with less emphasis on pop music have come out of the country in recent years, including Eskobar, Clawfinger, The Hives, Millencolin, Sahara Hotnights, The Hellacopters, Kent, Infinite Mass, and Looptroop. In underground circles, Sweden is known for a large number of heavy metal (mostly death metal and melodic death metal), as well as Progressive bands. Prominent metal acts include Opeth, In Flames, Meshuggah, Unleashed, Amon Amarth, Vintersorg, Entombed, The Haunted, and At the Gates. In the synth world, the band S.P.O.C.K is still active after 18 years. Sweden is also responsible for the Swechno scene, offering a distinct house and techno sound, of which artists like Adam Beyer is famous. More recently, the so-called Swedish House Mafia including Steve Angello, Sebastian Ingrosso, Axwell, and Eric Prydz have topped the house music charts and DJ top 10s around the world. Also worth mentioning is Joakim Thåström and his punk band Ebba Grön.
Swedes are among the greatest consumers of newspapers in the world, and nearly every town is served by a local paper. The country's main quality morning papers are Dagens Nyheter (liberal), Göteborgs-Posten (liberal), Svenska Dagbladet (conservative) and Sydsvenska Dagbladet (liberal). The two largest evening tabloids are Aftonbladet (social democratic) and Expressen (centrist). The ad-financed, free international morning paper, Metro International, was originally founded in Stockholm, Sweden. The country's news is reported in English by The Local.
For many years Swedish television consisted solely of the two channels broadcast by the public service company Sveriges Television, which, as in most other European countries, is financed through a radio and TV license. In 1987 the first commercial Scandinavian channel, TV3, started transmitting from London, and today there are five free broadcast channels in the terrestrial network, which is currently switching from analogue to digital, However, most Swedes have access to numerous other free and pay channels through cable or satellite TV.
Midsummer's Eve, painting by Anders ZornApart from traditional Protestant Christian holidays, Sweden also celebrates some unique holidays, some of a pre-Christian tradition. They include Midsummer, celebrating the summer solstice; Walpurgis Night on April 30 lighting bonfires; Labour Day on May 1st is dedicated to socialist demonstrations; and December 13th, the day of Saint Lucia the lightgiver. June 6 is National Day of Sweden and as of 2005 a public holiday. Furthermore, there are official flag day observances and a Namesdays in Sweden calendar. In August many Swedes have kräftskivor (crayfish parties). More regional variants are the surströmming parties in Northern Sweden (surströmming is a type of fermented fish), and ålegillar (eel parties) in Skåne. The Sami, Sweden's indigenous minority, have their holiday on February 6th.
Swedish cuisine, like that of the other Scandinavian countries (Denmark and Norway), is traditionally simple. Fish, meat and potatoes play prominent roles. Spices are sparse. Famous dishes include Swedish meatballs (köttbullar—traditionally served with gravy, boiled potatoes and lingonberry jam), plättar (Swedish pancakes, served with jam) lutfisk, the smörgås (open-faced sandwich), and the famous 'Smörgåsbord'.
Sport activities are a national movement with half of the population actively participating. The two main spectator sports are football (soccer) and ice hockey. Some notable Swedish football stars include Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrik Larsson and Fredrik Ljungberg. Swedish hockey players have often been regarded as some of the best in their sport. Famous Swedish hockey players include: Bengt Gustafsson, Håkan Loob, Peter Forsberg, Markus Näslund, Mats Sundin, Daniel Alfredsson, Nicklas Lidström, Tomas Holmström, Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Börje Salming, Mattias Norström, Tomas Sandström, Pelle Lindbergh and Henrik Lundqvist.
Second to football, horse sports have the highest number of practitioners, mostly women. Thereafter follow golf, track and field, and the team sports of handball, floorball, basketball and in northern parts bandy. American sports such as baseball and American football are also practised but have no widespread popularity.
Successful tennis players include former world No. 1's Björn Borg, Mats Wilander and Stefan Edberg; in skiing sports, Ingemar Stenmark, Pernilla Wiberg and Anja Pärson have all had dominating periods in alpine skiing, as have Sixten Jernberg, Gunde Svan, Per Elofsson and Thomas Wassberg in cross country skiing. In ski jumping, Jan Boklöv revolutionised the sport with his new technique, the V-style.
A number of Swedes have been internationally successful in athletics. In the 1940s runner Gunder Hägg dominated middle distance. In recent years, stars include high jumpers such as the European record holder Patrik Sjöberg, Kajsa Bergqvist, and Athens Olympic gold medallist Stefan Holm. Two other Swedish athletes won gold medals in the 2004 Olympic Games: heptathlete Carolina Klüft and triple jumper Christian Olsson.
Other famous Swedish athletes include the heavyweight boxing champion Ingemar Johansson, golfer Annika Sörenstam, former five times World table tennis Champion Jan-Ove Waldner and the World Speedway Champion Tony Rickardsson.
Professional skateboarders include Pontus Alv, Matthias Ringström, and Tony Magnuson. In schools, on meadows and in parks, the game brännboll, a sport similar to baseball, is commonly played for fun. Other leisure sports are the historical game of kubb and boules among the older generation.
Before the 11th century, people of Sweden adhered to Norse religion, worshipping Æsir gods, with its centre at the Temple in Uppsala. With Christianisation in the 11th century, the laws of the country were changed, forbidding worship of other deities.
After the Protestant Reformation in the 1530s the Church and State were united, abolishing the authority of the Roman Catholic bishops, and in the long run allowed only Lutheranism to prevail. This process was not completed until the Uppsala Synod 1593. During the era following the Reformation, usually known as the period of Lutheran Orthodoxy, in the 17th century, small groups of non-Lutherans, especially Calvinist Dutchmen and Walloons who played a significant role in trade and industry, were quietly tolerated as long as they kept a low religious profile. The Sami originally had their own shamanistic religion, but they were converted to Lutheranism by Swedish missionaries in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Not until liberalization in the late 18th century, were believers of other faiths, including Judaism and Catholicism, allowed to openly live and work in Sweden, although it remained illegal until 1860 for Lutheran Swedes to convert to another religion. The 19th century saw the arrival of various evangelical free churches, and, towards the end of the century secularism began attracting attention, leading people to distance themselves from Church rituals. Leaving the Church of Sweden became legal with the so-called dissenter law of 1860, but only under the provision of entering another denomination. The right to stand outside any religious denomination was established in the Law on Freedom of Religion in 1951. Today about 78% of Swedes belong to the Church of Sweden, but the number is decreasing by about one percent every year, and Church of Sweden services are sparsely attended (hovering in the single digit percentages of the population). Some 275,000 Swedes are today members of various free churches (where congregation attendance is much higher), and, in addition, immigration has meant that there are now some 92,000 Roman Catholics and 100,000 Eastern Orthodox Christians living in Sweden . Also of significance are the 200,000 to 400,000 Muslims in Sweden.
According to the most recent Eurostat "Eurobarometer" poll, in 2005 , only 23% of Swedish citizens responded that "they believe there is a god", whereas 53% answered that "they believe there is some sort of spirit or life force" and 23% that "they do not believe there is any sort of spirit, god, or life force". This, according to the survey, would make Swedes the third least spiritual people in the 25-member European Union.
Classiclady June 22, 2006
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