Sweden’s badass king

Today, 30th November is an important day in Swedish history.

And it all revolves around a stoical King, whose statue can be seen in Stockholm’s Kungsträdgården Park.

Today, Sweden is a peaceful country and hasn’t been at war for over 200 years. But it wasn’t always so. Once upon a time, Sweden was a great power, a military giant with a much larger territory than it has today. And the King of the statue – Charles XII – had a lot to do with it. If you see the statue, he is pointing his finger east. And there is a good explanation for this.

Charles (Karl) was king in Sweden 1697-1718 and a bit of a badass. Apparently never registering physical pain, in the space of a few years, he transformed the small nation of Sweden into a formidable power, crushing his enemies under him. And then he lost it all. At this time, Sweden covered modern day Norway, Finland and other Baltic regions such as Lavonia.

Charles ascended to the throne age 15 and his youth was subsequently exploited by neighbours Denmark, Poland and Lithuania who decided to snatch land from him. In retaliation, he quashed Denmark’s invasion of Sweden and put an ally on the throne. Then, he responded to Russia’s attempt to occupy Livonia and Estonia, and won a sweeping victory at the battle of Narva, under the cover of a blizzard.

After later defeating Poland and Lithuania, he then turned his sights again on Russia. Like his statue, he pointed East. This was a mistake. Up until now, it seems like he just retaliated but this time he waged a war. Hubris perhaps? It was to be his downfall.

Unfortunately for Charles, Peter the Great had regrouped and, in a grueling cold battle, the Russians beat the shit out of the Swedes. Rather like what happens on the ice hockey rink today. Charles fled to the Ottoman Empire but made himself unpopular there so fled back to Sweden, riding across Europe on horseback in just 14 days. Obviously not on the same horse.

Back in Sweden, he saw his nation crumble. Russia took Finland. Denmark took other Baltic regions.

On Nov 30th, 1718 he was shot and killed in modern day Norway, thus marking the short period of Sweden as a great European power. The ‘Swedish empire’ crumbled and territory was taken.

In modern day democratic, peaceful Sweden, Charles XII is sometimes criticized as a blood thirsty tyrant. His war-mongering contradicts strongly with the Swedish Brand of today. But history is history. Rewritten, retold and reinterpreted.

Whatever Charles was, there is no doubt he was a hard core ass kicker. On a historical website I found, the writer describes Charles XII in the following way:

‘Charles was pretty badass.  He completely abstained from alcohol and sex and was pretty much uncomfortable doing anything other than leading his troops to victory or being stoic as fuck.  He lived fast, died young and when he went down he took the entire fucking country of Sweden with him.  What more can you ask for from a historical badass?’

So that’s what ‘Dackefejden’ means

As recently as today, I heard the Swedish expression ‘sedan Dackefejden’ (since the Dacke feud). It is used, often ironically, to describe something very old. ‘I haven’t heard this song since ‘dackefejden’, for example. Or ‘that car looks like something from dackefejden’.

I became curious to learn about this Dacke feud that everybody’s referring to. So I checked it out.

It happened 1542-1543, and was the biggest peasant uprising in Nordic history. It happened in the rural county of Småland in southern Sweden and was against King Gustav Vasa. The leader of the uprising was peasant Nils Dacke, and he was angry that the king had raised taxes and forbidden the sale of cattle and butter to the neighboring county of Blekinge, which at the time belonged to Denmark. Additionally, the king had plundered all the silver from their churches and wanted them to renounce their catholic faith.

So they rebelled, and took control of large parts of Småland and Östergötland. Such was their control, that Nils Dacke celebrated Christmas in Kronberg Castle outside of the town of Växjö.

Of course king Gustav Vasa wasn’t too happy about this feud and made various attempts to undermine the leaders. He offered sanctuary for those who surrendered, he slandered Nils Dacke as a false and unreliable person. And in 1543, he attacked – totally defeating and quashing the rebellion.

Nils Dacke was killed by the king’s soldiers. The people of Småland were punished with high taxes, the insurgents were banished to Finland, the leaders were executed and the whole of Dacke’s family was completely eradicated. So it really seemed to be a bad idea to argue with King Gustav Vasa.

And you literally won’t have met a member of the Dacke family ‘sedan dackefejden’.

Amazing immigrants in Sweden: Part 3 Negra Efendic

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Negativity. Fear. Concern. These are some of the reactions many Swedes are experiencing about the influx of immigrants to Sweden in the last couple of years. So, I became curious to learn about some of those individuals who came here as refugees or immigrants to make a better life for themselves. People with roots somewhere else who built a home here and who contributed to Swedish society in a positive way.

For the next seven days, I will celebrate these people. My hope is that we can lift our eyes from the challenges of immigration and understand what useful contributions these people can make to society if given the chance. To our society. Our Sweden

Part 3: Negra Efendić

Sometimes when we imagine groups of immigrants and refugees, it is easy to forget the children. At the age of 13, with her parents, Negra Efendic fled the war in Bosnia. She was born in a town called Srebenica where, in 1995, 8000 men and boys were executed.  Her father managed to escape and flee to Sweden.

After a difficult period, her family settled and Negra went to school and ultimately studied journalism in the small Swedish town of Motala. After working at the newspaper in Borås, she started working at national paper ‘Svenska Dagbladet’ where she covers migration and immigration issues. In 2016, she published the book ‘Jag var precis som du’ – ‘I was just like you’ – where she recounts the experience of fleeing to Sweden and living as a refugee here.

She is living proof that refugees in Sweden have valid stories, often stories of horror. Are we prepared to listen?

Sweden – get some perspective!!

60 million is a massive number. So big that it’s impossible to imagine. Difficult to relate to. 60 million is roughly 6 times the population of the whole of Sweden. And it’s the estimated number of people who are currently on the run in the world today. These people are running from war, from oppression, violence and starvation. They are running to escape persecution, to save their lives, and the lives of their children.

As we sit here in our comfortable homes, drinking coffee and eating our cinnamon buns, we watch these people on our flat screen televisions and switch them off when it gets too repetitive. 60 million people is an impossible number to digest, so it’s better just to put those images somewhere to the back of our minds and complain about the weather instead.

But just because it’s not happening here, doesn’t mean it’s not happening. 

A comparative handful of these 60 million people, against all odds, make it to Sweden. Housed in camps or living homeless on the streets, they break our illusion of our rich society. These people see Sweden as a temporary sanctuary. Here they are safe from war, famine and disease. They are safe from persecution and attack. But some Swedes see them as vermin, as parasites who are here to suck freely at the teet of the tax payer. 

We are told in political rhetoric that Sweden is being ‘swarmed’ by refugees, that our comfortable society is at risk. And people are scared that the self righteous baracades that have been built are creaking under the pressure of a world outside. 

Get some perspective Sweden! 

According to statistics released by the UN, the actual number of refugees and immigrants seeking asylum in Europe last year was round 600 000 – a mere 1%. 

Other statistics from Forbes show the following: 

  
Per thousand people, Sweden took in 15 refugees during 2014 which means around 135000 people. Out of 60 million people who are currently on the move. 

We need to have a reality check in Sweden and not believe the political arguments that some parties would have us believe. 

In the big picture, the number of people who make it to Sweden is tiny. These people have endured more than we can imagine just to get here. They have suffered mentally and emotionally and probably experienced indignities beyond our comprehension. 

The question becomes how do we treat these people who break through our flat screen complacency when they become living examples of what we fear? 

I suggest we welcome them with pride and with humanity. And treat them with the dignity they deserve. These are people, not parasites.  

And they are desperate to receive our protection. 

     

         
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Sweden 2014 – two hundred years of peace?

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So it’s soon the start of a new year – 2014. Another year of sublime and strange Swedish things.

Over Christmas the Swedish King mentioned something in his speech, something that is repeated in the media. For Sweden, 2014 marks the 200th year of peace. In 1814, Sweden signed a treaty with Norway thereby giving them independence. And Sweden, it is claimed, haven’t been at war since then. 200 years of peace is something that the media is proud of.

But hang on a minute. Sweden was ‘neutral’ in the Second World War, but still allowed German troops to cross the nation as they occupied Norway and the country sold iron to Germany for their weapon industry.

In 1961, Sweden was involved in the war in Congo, in the 1990’s in Bosnia and, as we speak, Swedish armed forces are active in Afghanistan and the Libyan Civil War.

Maybe it’s semantic, but is there actually any difference between being in a war and being at war?