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The Swedish Empire was at its greatest extent in the 17th and early 18th centuries. The only Nordic country to have been considered a "great power", at points in history Sweden has controlled most of the shores of the Baltic Sea, troops have marched deep into present-day Germany, Russia and Ukraine and it has possessed colonies in North America, Africa and briefly in India.


Arms of the House of Vasa
See also: Nordic history, Swedish monarchy

As Sweden has been the same sovereign political entity since its independence in 1523, and included territories beyond today's borders from that day until 1905, there is no universal definition of the Swedish Empire. It is usually seen as equivalent with the Great Power era (stormaktstiden), in Sweden defined as the time from 1611 (Gustavus Adolphus' ascension to the throne) to 1718 (death of Charles XII), when Sweden had its greatest territorial extent, and its greatest political influence.

The Swedish language had no specific term for the Swedish Empire while it existed, except Konungariket Sverige (the Kingdom of Sweden). A much more modern term is Östersjöväldet, "the Baltic Sea realm". European provinces with non-Swedish population, such as those in Finland and the Baltic states, were not colonies, but formally on par with the Swedish provinces, with extensive autonomy for the estates (stånd); nobles, clergy, burghers, and land-owning farmers.

In Europe, the word empire can imply that the head of state is styled emperor and claims a heritage from the Roman Empire, but no Swedish monarch has called themselves "emperor". Every monarch from Gustav Vasa to Gustav VI Adolf (dead 1973) was styled Sveriges, Götes och Vendes konung, "King of Sweden, Geats and Wends". The Geats, inhabitants of Götaland, have been seen as equivalent of the Goths, one of the Germanic tribes that replaced the Roman Empire (see Vikings and the Old Norse). The Wends were a Slavic tribe in Pomerania, who were assimilated by the Germans in the 16th century. They were seen as the same as the Vandals, another Germanic tribe that sacked Rome. The reigning king Carl XVI Gustaf is the first and only monarch to be modestly styled Sveriges konung ("Sweden's king").

Sweden's European possessions at their largest extent in 1658

House of Vasa, independence and reformation[edit]

The dissolution of the Kalmar Union in the early 1500s established Sweden as an independent country, with Gustav Vasa as the first Swedish king. Back then the extent of the country was a bit different. Since the Swedish Crusades a few centuries before, present-day Finland was part of Sweden, but some southern and western parts of present-day Sweden were still Danish lands. The Vasa Coat of Arms is in part an example of "canting arms" with the withe (called "Vasa" in Swedish at the time) representing the family. The same yellow withe is prominent in the coat of arms of the city of Vaasa, which was named after the royal house. The lion on top of the blue and white strips are the coat of arms of the House of Bjelbo or House of Folkung, that many Medieval Swedish kings and nobility belonged to. The "Three Crowns" have been a symbol of Sweden since the 14th century and may refer to the three divisions of Sweden (Svealand, Götaland and Norrland), but there are other theories as to its origins. One of the first things Gustav Vasa did as king was making the Lutheran version of Christianity the official religion of the country.

Sweden as a Great Power[edit]

Axel Oxenstierna was the Chancellor of Sweden from 1612 until his death in 1654, and acting Head of State during Queen Kristina's childhood. He was by far the most powerful non-royal person in the Swedish Empire, and the founder of many Swedish institutions, including the postal service and the counties.

Sweden entered the Thirty Year's War to support the Lutheran cause, and the Swedes advanced deep into Germany. One of the most famous events in this war was the 1632 Battle of Lützen where King Gustavus Adolphus was killed. The anti-Habsburg coalition (including Sweden) was victorious and the war established Sweden as a major regional power in northern Europe, beginning an era known as Stormaktstiden, lit. "the Era of Great Power". During the Thirty Year's War Swedish troops besieged and conquered many towns leading to local names of geographical features like "Schwedenschanze" ("Swedish redoubt").

During the 17th century, universities were founded in Tartu (1632), in Turku (1640) and in the newly conquered Lund (1666), and many towns were founded in Österland (Finland); the "time of the count" (Per Brahe) was long remembered in Finland as the good time, as was "the Swedish time" in Estonia.

After a few wars in the latter half of the 17th century, the Great Northern War broke out in 1700 with Sweden against virtually all neighbours; Russia, Denmark-Norway, Saxony and Poland-Lithuania. The Swedes led by king Charles XII (Karl XII, latinized form Carolus XII) were first successful, and like two later empires (Napoleon's France and Nazi Germany) the Swedish army (Caroleans) marched a long way east before being defeated at Poltava. The war went on for 21 years, leading to a Swedish defeat and the rise of Russia under Peter the Great. Aside of still holding on to most of Finland (most of which was completely occupied by Russia for the last years of the war), Sweden was almost shrunk to its current borders.

Overseas colonies[edit]

Similar to many other European powers, Sweden also established a colonial empire outside Europe. Like the Dutch, they consisted mainly of various trading posts rather than control over large tract of land. In general, these projects were short-lived. In the present-day United States, along the Delaware river, the colony of New Sweden was established in 1638, as the first permanent European settlement in that area. In the same era, Sweden also had a colony called the Swedish Gold Coast in today's Ghana made up of some forts and "factories" (trading posts).

Despite setting up colonies on the west coast of Africa, Sweden would not become involved in the Atlantic slave trade until a century later, when they gained possession of the island of Saint Barthelemy in the Caribbean. They held the island from 1784 to 1878, and it was first envisioned as a place for agriculture (and tropical fruits and tobacco were grown here on a small scale) but the island was most notable as a trading point, and a notable part of the "goods" was slaves. At the end of the Napoleonic Wars, nearby Guadeloupe was Swedish for a short period. For an even shorter period in time, in 1733, the Swedish East India Company operated a "factory" in Parangipettai, in the Cuddalore District in southeastern India.

Model of Tre Kronor ("three crowns") Castle in Stockholm, serving as the royal castle until burning down in 1697

The late empire[edit]

In Swedish historiography, the 18th century following Charles XII's death is known in Sweden as the Age of Liberty (Frihetstiden), as much of the monarch's power was transferred to the riksdag (parliament), made up by the four estates: nobles, clergy, guilds and farmers. The country became prominent in the arts and sciences, with celebrities such as Carl Linnaeus, the inventor of systematic biology. The 1766 Free Press Act was the world's first of its kind, an achievement of Anders Chydenius from what today is Finland, whose book on economic liberties predated Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations by a decade.

The Age of Liberty is held to have ended with King Gustav III's coup in 1772, as he tried to make himself an enlightened despot inspired by the Enlightenment. He was a patron of the arts (founding the Swedish Opera and the Swedish Academy), abolished torture, and modernized the bureaucracy. As he stripped the nobles of their privileges and started an unauthorized and risky war against Russia, many nobles turned against him, and had him assassinated at a masquerade ball in his newly built Opera House.

The Napoleonic Wars was the last conflict involving Sweden as a fighting participant to this day. At the end of the wars, Finland had became part of the Russian Empire, and Sweden's remaining possessions in present-day Germany were transferred to states that would come to form Germany.

Aftermath and legacy[edit]

Norway was independent for a few months in 1814, until Sweden annexed the country, forming the Swedish-Norwegian Union. During the nationalist movement of the 19th century, Swedish writers and artists began romanticizing the long-lost Swedish Empire, creating many of the statues and paintings which have come to illustrate the period. Monarchs and other personalities have undergone waves of re-evaluation with new generations. A complex case study is Charles XII, who was seen as a despot during the decades after his death. In the mid-19th century he was brought back to honour as a national hero, becoming an icon of the far right in the late 20th century, as well as seen as a pioneer for Sweden's cultural exchange with Turkey. Military historians have seen him both as a tactical genius and a strategic failure.

Norway sought its roots in its Viking Age monarchy, and called for independence. As Norway left the union in 1905, Sweden got its present-day borders, without foreign possessions.

Finland, a subject of the Russian Empire since 1809, also saw a wave of nationalism in the 19th century, to build the nation that was "raised to the status of a nation among nations" (as emperor Alexander declared). The nation building was mainly run by scholars of the Swedish-speaking minority, but they sought to find the uniquely Finnish in the nature, people and culture of the country. While some thought a nation needs one common language, others saw the Swedish language as a crucial tie to the west, and indeed the law, language and religion inherited from Swedish times gave a solid ground for the new nation, helping to withstand Russification in later years. The ties to the Nordic countries were very important also during the Cold War. To this day, Swedish remains one of Finland's two "national languages" (alongside Finnish; in contrast to the recognised minority languages). The 19th century romantic nationalism also saw the compiling of the Kalevala, often called Finland's "national epic" by Elias Lönnrot. The work, which contains several references which are cryptic even to the modern-day expert, is famous for having served as one of several sources of inspiration of J.R.R. Tolkien (who admired the Finnish language and spoke it passably, but not well) and through subsequent "high fantasy" writers borrowing concepts for the modern western genre of fantasy as a whole. In the postwar decades, hundreds and thousands of Finns moved to Sweden for work, and now make up Sweden's largest ethnic minority.

A unifying Scandinavian identity evolved during the 19th century. A Scandinavian union between Sweden, Norway and Denmark (which included Iceland and Greenland) with Finland as a potential member was considered, but never made real.

As inventor Alfred Nobel used his wealth to found the Nobel Prize, his will had a clause to reward the most deserving candidate "whether he be Scandinavian or not". By Nobel's death in 1896, this internationalist statement was provoking, as philantrophists were expected to serve their own people. Since then, the Nobel Prize has brought more fame and prestige to Sweden than any domestic award would have brought. According to Nobel's will, the Peace Prize is awarded by a committee appointed by the Norwegian Parliament, which was then a domestic legislature within the Swedish-Norwegian union.

Though the Nordic countries ended up in very different alignments during World War II in Europe and the Cold War, the region is more integrated than ever in the 21st century, without the imperialist ambitions and wars of the past.

Notable regents[edit]


  • 1520 Christian II has Swedish noblemen executed in Stockholm. This event was known as the Stockholm bloodbath, and this lead to the Swedish Liberation War and the breakup of the Kalmar Union.
  • 1521-23 Swedish Liberation War
  • 1523 Gustav Vasa becomes King of Sweden
  • 1554-57 Russo-Swedish War ("Great Russian War"), leading to Treaty of Novgorod (status quo ante bellum)
  • 1558-83 Livonian War
  • 1560 Eric XIV king
  • 1563-70 Northern Seven Year's War, leading to Treaty of Stettin (status quo ante bellum)
  • 1568 John III king
Border markers made after the Treaty of Teusina on Pisa hill near Kuopio, Finland
  • 1590-95 Russo-Swedish War, together with the Livonian War known as the "25 years war against Russia", leading to Treaty of Teusina. Northern Estonia becomes part of Sweden.
  • 1592 Sigismund king
  • 1598-99 War against Sigismund
  • 1599 Duke Charles regent
  • 1600-29 Polish War leading to the Truce of Altmark 1629, and Treaty of Stuhmsdorf 1635. Sweden receives the rest of present-day Estonia and northern part of present-day Latvia including Riga.
  • 1604 Charles IX king
  • 1609-10 De la Gardie Campaign
  • 1610-17 Ingrian War, leading to Treaty of Stolbovo. Sweden receives Ingria and Kexholm county, amounting roughly to present day Leningrad Oblast.
  • 1611 Gustavus Adolphus king
  • 1618-48 Thirty Years' War, leading to the Peace of Westfalia. Sweden receives its possessions in present-day Germany including Swedish Pomerania and Bremen-Verden. During the war Swedish troops march throughout central Europe and besiege cities in Southern Germany
  • 1628 Warship Vasa, the flagship of the Swedish navy, sinks on its maiden voyage
  • 1632 Gustavus Adolphus dies in battle, Christina queen
  • 1638 Fort Christina is built and New Sweden in present-day United States is established, Sweden's first colony outside Europe
  • 1643-45 Torstenson War, leading to the Second Treaty of Brömsebo. Sweden receives Jämtland, Härjedalen, Gotland, Saaremaa, and in addition Halland for 30 years
  • 1649 Sweden Africa Company is established and a trading post is set up in present-day Ghana
  • 1654 Charles X Gustav king
  • 1655 New Sweden is conquered by the Dutch Empire


At the height of the (European) empire, Sweden's kings usually had the name Karl (Charles), in Latin "Carolus". The name of the soldiers were derived from this, and they were called Caroleans (karoliner). From 1687 on, they got an unified blue and yellow colored uniform, and later the black tricorne. Even as they were a big army relative to the country's population, the Caroleans were usually smaller in numbers than their opponents and to compensate for that, they had to rely on offensive tactics.

  • 1655-61 Second Northern War, leading to many treaties; the Treaty of Roskilde in 1658, and the Treaty of Copenhagen in 1660 both with Denmark, the Treaty Oliva with Poland in 1660 the Treaty of Kardis with Russia in 1661. Sweden receives Scania, Blekinge, Bohuslän, and Halland permanently. Moreover Sweden received Trøndelag and Bornholm in 1658, but they were returned to Denmark in 1660.
  • 1660 Charles XI king
  • 1663 The Dutch capture Fort Carolusborg, ending the Swedish presence in Africa
  • 1674-79 Scanian War
  • 1680s the reductions of Charles XI, meaning the power and privileges of nobility was reduced
  • 1697 Charles XII king. The former royal castle Tre Kronor burns down, and the current Royal Palace is later built at the same spot.
  • 1700-21 Great Northern War (the last years were known as the Greater Wrath in Finland) leading to the treaty of Nystad. Sweden loses its present-day Baltic and Russian possessions, Bremen-Verden and some of Pomerania.
  • 1718 Charles XII dies in battle, Ulrica Eleanor queen
  • 1720 Frederick I king

The unlucky kings

The four Swedish kings from the House of Holstein-Gottorp all met tragical fates. Adolf Frederick was a friend of good food and died of a seizure after a huge meal; he's known as the "King who ate himself to death". Gustav III, his oldest son and next king, was shot by an assassin at a ball and died two weeks later. He was succeeded by his son, Gustav IV Adolph, who was dethroned in a military coup and deported together with his family. His uncle, Charles XIII reigned for a few years but was suffering from bad health and died without a heir.

  • 1733 Swedish East India Company establishes a trading post in India for just a month before it was attacked and destroyed by a British and French force
  • 1741-43 Hat's Russian War (Minor Wrath) leading to the treaty of Åbo (Turku). Sweden loses more territory of present-day Finland and Kymi river now becomes the border with Russia.
  • 1751 Adolf Frederick is crowned king
  • 1757-62 Pomeranian War
  • 1771 Gustav III king
  • 1772 Gustav III launches a coup d'etat, establishing himself as an absolute monarch
  • 1784 Sweden purchases St. Barthelemy
    Gustav III airport on Saint Barthelemy. Despite being a French colony since 1878, Swedish names and emblems can still be seen here and there on the island.
  • 1788-90 Gustav III's Russian War leading to the treaty of Värälä (status quo ante bellum).
  • 1792 Gustav III assassinated, Duke Charles regent, would later become king
  • 1796 Gustav IV Adolph king
  • 1805-14 Sweden becomes involved in the Napoleonic Wars, notably the 1808-09 Finnish War when Russia conquered the rest of Finland. But as a result of the war Norway became part of Sweden for almost a century.
  • 1809 Gustav IV Adolph dethroned by military officers, Charles XIII king
  • 1813 Britain transfers Guadeloupe, which it has occupied since an invasion in 1810, to Sweden, which returns it to its former owner, France, in 1814
  • 1818 Charles XIV John king
  • 1844 Oscar I king
  • 1859 Charles XV king
  • 1872 Oscar II king
  • 1878 St. Barthelemy is transferred back to France for a sum of money
  • 1905 Norway becomes independent, thus Sweden gets the borders it has today.


Map of Swedish Empire


  • 1 Stockholm. Since the Viking Age the Swedish capital has been somewhere in the region; Birka, Sigtuna, Uppsala and finally Stockholm. The Old town is all about Swedish history with the Royal Palace and other royal and governmental buildings, several churches, Stortorget (the great square) and many museums. See the Stockholm history tour itinerary for sites all around the city where important events in Swedish history have taken place, and Stockholm waterfront palace tour for the grand houses of nobles and businesspeople.
  • 1 Royal Palace (Kungliga Slottet) (Stockholm/Gamla Stan). Daily: May-Sep 10:00-17:00, Oct-Apr 10:00-16:00. At times referred to by Swedes at the "Royal Castle". Built between 1697 and 1754, dominating the north-eastern part of the Old Town, the Royal Palace is the official residence of the king of Sweden. However, the Royal family lives at Drottningholm in Ekerö, using the Royal Palace only for official ceremonies. It is open to the public unless being used for a state ceremony. Entrance ticket includes The Royal Apartments, the Tre Kronor Museum, the Treasury, and Gustav III's Museum of Antiquities. Adults 160 kr, students and children 80 kr. Stockholm Palace (Q750444) on Wikidata Stockholm Palace on Wikipedia
  • 2 Army Museum, Riddargatan 13. Displays Sweden's history as one of Europe's major military powers during the 16th to 18th century, followed by two centuries of peace. The museum makes a great effort of putting warfare into a broader social context.
  • 3 Riddarholmen Church (Riddarholmskyrkan) (Stockholm/Gamla Stan), +46 8 590 350 09. Daily 10:00-17:00. Riddarholm is the ancient core of Stockholm and this is the city's oldest building - though no longer the oldest church, as it's nowadays simply a museum. Built as an abbey in the late 14th century. Many Swedish monarchs are buried here, including Gustavus Adolphus (Gustav II Adolf) and Charles XII (Karl XII). But what about Nelson Mandela, Lord Mountbatten, Chiang Kai-shek and other notables? - no, their plaques are here as "Knights of the Order of Seraphim", a Swedish heraldic society. Adults 50 kr, students and children 25 kr. Riddarholm Church (Q657118) on Wikidata Riddarholm Church on Wikipedia
  • 4 Vasa Museum (Vasamuseet), Galärvarvsvägen 14 (Stockholm/Djurgården), +46 8-519 548 00. Jun-Aug: daily 08:30-18:00, Sep-May: 10:00-17:00 (W 10:00-20:00). This museum displays the Vasa, an original warship built for the Thirty Years War which sank in Stockholm Harbour on its maiden voyage in 1628, during the heyday of Swedish Empire. Salvaged in 1961, the ship is almost wholly preserved, and is the only one of its kind and quality in the world. A must-see, especially since it is uncertain whether current methods of preservation will be able to maintain her condition in years to come. There are adequate lifts to enable travellers with motion disabilities to see all levels of the ship. The museum contains several side exhibitions: full-scale models of the people whose bodies were found in the ship hulk, as well as wooden sculptures, the world's oldest preserved sail, and other salvaged objects. Adults 110 kr, students 80 kr, children up to 17 free..
  • 5 Drottningholm Palace (Drottningholms slott) (Ekerö). While the Royal Palace is in Stockholm's Old Town, the Royal family lives at Drottningholm Palace on the Lovön island in Lake Mälaren. Drottningholm is one of three world heritage sites in Greater Stockholm. The 18th-century palace is beautiful, and much of it is open to the public. The surroundings are well worth a walk as well. Back in the 18th century it was fashionable among the nobility to own and display exotic items from faraway lands, and on the palace grounds there's a Chinese Pavilion named Kina slott. It's built in "Chinese style" has items from the Far East imported by the Swedish East India Company on display. Travel to T Brommaplan, change to bus 176 or 177 or (mostly during peak hours) 301-336, to Drottningholm. In the summertime, there is also regular boat service from Stadshuskajen (the City Hall Quay) to Drottningholm operated by Strömma Kanalbolaget (130 kr for a return ticket). Consider the combination return ferry ticket (210 kr, includes the palace and the Chinese Pavilion). But, if you are a student with an ISIC card, don't buy the combo ticket because you won't get the discounts offered by the Palace and Chinese Pavilion. There are no interpretative signs in the Palace or in the Chinese Pavilion. So, catch a (free) guided tour, offered nearly every half hour in Swedish and English, and you'll get a lot more out of it. Or, buy a guide book (50 kr). If you use Talk of the town the mobile audioguide for Stockholm. You can listen at six sights spread over Drottningholm Royal domain in six languages. Drottningholm Palace (Q208559) on Wikidata Drottningholm Palace on Wikipedia
One of Uppsala Castle's cannons aimed at the cathedral
  • 2 Uppsala. Uppsala, a political and religious centre since the 5th century BC, was the Swedish capital in Catholic times experienced a decline after the Reformation when the clergy lost its power to the king. After the Thirty Years' War the city was revived, and with its university (the oldest in the Nordic countries) became a kind of intellectual and scientific capital of Sweden it still is today.
  • 6 Uppsala Castle (Uppsala Slott) (Uppsala), +46 18-54 48 11. This major Uppsala landmark is stocked with large halls, paintings, and older remnants of the 16th-century castle built by the Vasa dynasty as a royal residence and a military fortification. As the castle was damaged in the 1702 city fire, the current building is smaller than it was in the 17th century, but is nevertheless built in the same style. Today it is the official residence of the governor of Uppsala county, and houses several museums. Due to its location on the top of Uppsalaåsen the Castle area offer some of the best views of Uppsala. Uppsala Castle (Q1475894) on Wikidata Uppsala Castle on Wikipedia
    • Fredens Hus (House of Peace), Entrance A2, +46 18-50 00 08, . W–F 15:00–18:00, Sa Su 12:00–16:00. A museum housing exhibitions concerning peace, conflict and human rights. Has a permanent exhibition about the life of the former secretary-general of the UN, Dag Hammarskjöld, who grew up in the castle. While the permanent exhibition feature information in English, some temporary exhibitions only feature information in Swedish. Free. Peace House (Q10498685) on Wikidata
    • [dead link] Uppsala Konstmuseum (Uppsala Art Museum), Entrance E, +46 727 24 82, . F–W 12:00–16:00, Th 12:00–20:00. A local art museum with contemporary Swedish and international art. Has plenty of Uppsala ceramics and temporary exhibitions. Free. Uppsala Art Museum (Q10710245) on Wikidata
    • Roof Walk, Uppsala Castle, Drottning Christinas väg 1A, +46 18-12 18 00, . 12:00 every Saturday May–Sep. Offer guided tours on the roof of Uppsala Castle. The tour takes about 90 minutes. 600 kr per person. Exclusive tour for two 2,500 kr.
    • Vasaborgen (The Vasa Castle ruins), Kung Jans port, +46 703-90 79 89, . 10:00–18:00 daily, early Jun–mid Aug and weekends late Aug. The 16th-century parts of Uppsala castle damaged in the 1702 fire. Among other things the ruins contain the dungeons where the 1567 "Sture murders" took place. Guided tours at 14:00 F–M are included in the entry fee. Adults' tickets are 120 kr. Children's, students' and seniors' tickets are 60 kr.
  • 7 Uppsala Cathedral (Domkyrkan), Domkyrkoplan 2 (Uppsala, look up, and walk towards the huge spires...), +46 18-430 36 30, . 08:00–18:00 daily. Mass celebrated at M–Sa 12:45 and Su 11:00; all welcome. Uppsala Cathedral, built during a century and a half between 1272 and 1435 in Gothic style, is one of the focal points of Uppsala and it dominates the city skyline. It is simultaneously the largest church in the Nordic countries, the burial site of many Swedish royals, and the seat of the Church of Sweden. Here you can see relics of Eric the Holy and Saint Bridget, and in the far end of the cathedral you will find "Vasakoret" – the royal crypt of Gustav I Vasa, "father of the Swedish nation". The walls of the crypt are covered in national romantic frescoes depicting Vasa's reign and his war for Swedish independence. Other notable burials include the 17th-century polymath Olaus Rudbeck, the 18th-century botanist Carl Linnaeus, the 18th-century mystic Emanuel Swedenborg and the theologian, archbishop and Nobel peace prize laureate Nathan Söderblom. It shouldn't be missed, but given its towering size, how could you? Free English language guided tours are held at 12:30 on the first Saturday of every month and daily late Jun–late Aug, M–Sa 10:00 and 15:00, and Su 15:00. Free. Uppsala Cathedral (Q850042) on Wikidata Uppsala Cathedral on Wikipedia
    • Skattkammaren (Treasury Museum), +46 18-430 36 30. May–Sep: 10:00–17:00 M–Sa, 12:30–17:00 Su; Oct–Apr: 10:00–16:00 M–Sa, 12:30–16:00 Su. Guided tours 13:30 on the first M every month and daily late Jun–late Aug. In its northern tower, the Uppsala Cathedral exhibit highlights from its collection. The collections include plenty of royal regalia used in the many coronations which took place in the Cathedral. They also exhibit one of the finest collections of historic textiles in the world, including the world's only preserved medieval feast dress, used by Queen Margaret of the Kalmar Union. Another exceptional, but somewhat gruesome exhibit, is the clothing worn by three members of the Sture noble family when they were massacred by the insane King Eric XIV in Uppsala in 1567. Despite being covered with visible stab-wounds and blood stains, these are the best-preserved 16th-century male feast dresses in the world. 50 kr.
  • 3 Falun. Falun is famous for its world heritage listed copped mine that operated from the middle ages until 1992. During the imperial times, this 3,000 tons of copper was mined here every year, providing 2/3 of the copper used in Europe and so the Falun Mine was a major source of income for the expanding empire.
A statue of Gustavus Adolphus, founder of Gothenburg, in the square carrying his name in the city
  • 4 Gothenburg (Göteborg). As Sweden had expanded westwards in the early 17th century, king Gustavus Adolphus decided to establish a city on the west coast. Due to the swampy terrain the city was built around canals, like Dutch cities, and with Dutch experts. The Dutch inhabitants would also develop and dominate the city politically for its first few decades. Today some of the canals have been turned into streets. Gothenburg became an important gateway and trading point, as ships now had access to the seas without having to sail through the Danish sounds. The Swedish East Indian Company was founded here, and it's imposing head office building today serves as the city museum.
  • 8 Gothenburg City Museum (Göteborgs Stadsmuseum), Norra Hamngatan 12 (Gothenburg), +46 31-368 36 00. Covers the history of the city and region from prehistoric times to the present, with emphasis on the 19th-century Swedish East India Company, which was once housed in the building. 40 kr, people under 25 free. Museum of Gothenburg (Q3107846) on Wikidata Museum of Gothenburg on Wikipedia
  • 9 Vadstena Castle (Vadstena). From the 16th century, it was built as a fortress to protect the rich Mälaren Valley from the southern enemy. Rebuilt into a Renaissance palace by the royal Vasa family and since then very well-preserved. Guided tours are offered all year. Museum with furnishings from 16-18th centuries.
  • 5 Visby. Founded in the middle ages, the city changed hands between Danes, the Hanseatic league, Teutonic Knights and pirates, being sacked and burnt down several times. In 1645, after the Second Treaty of Brömsebo, Gotland, Jämtland and Saaremaa became part of Sweden. Gotland lies at a strategic position in the Baltic Sea, and as such the Swedish military maintains a presence here to this day.
  • 6 Lund. Like Uppsala, Lund is also famous for its cathedral and university, and for being one of the oldest cities in the country (founded approximately 990, near the settlement of Uppåkra, which in turn is believed to date to the 1st century BC). However this medieval city was part of Denmark until 1658, when Scania including Lund became part of Sweden, and the university was established shortly afterwards to promote Swedish language and culture in the newly conquered city.
  • 7 Karlskrona. Founded in 1680 by Charles XI, as a naval base that was ice-free almost around the year as well as close to Denmark and continental Europe ("continental" used in the Scandinavian sense as everything south of the Baltic Sea). It's still an important city for the navy, but there were much bigger plans back in the day – it was intended to become the new capital, which is visible in the grand Baroque buildings and squares, that have earned the city a place in the world heritage list. The city's name literally translates to "Charles' crown" and it quickly grew to the third most populous city in the empire after Stockholm and Riga. Nevertheless, as Sweden's domination in Northern Europe faded away, so did the importance of Karlskrona.
  • 10 Vaxholm Fortress (Vaxholms fästning) (Stockholm archipelago), +46 8-541 311 10. A fortress which has guarded Stockholm's harbour since the 16th century, and famously resisted an attack by the Russian Empire in 1719. Over the centuries, an extensive coastal defense system was built across the archipelago, with Vaxholm as its headquarters. The fortress was also used as a prison. Some scenes of a 1970 Pippi Longstocking film was shot here. Since 2003, the fortress has a museum of its history, as well as hospitality venues.
Carolean Monument in Duved
  • 11 Carolean monument (Karolinermonumentet) (Duved, near Åre). The attempted invasion of Norway in the Great Northern War failed, and as news about the death of the king in Halden reached the Swedes in Trondheim, they marched back across the mountains after Christmas 1718, in what would become known as the Carolean Death March. They were caught in a snowstorm on Øyfjellet mountain, and only about 2000 of the 6000 men leaving Trondheim made it to the Swedish side. In the village of Duved there's a monument to the fallen.
  • 12 Örbyhus Castle (Örbyhus slott) (Tierp), +46 29-520300. Tours: May 16–Sep 6: Sa Su at 13:00, Jun 23–Aug 2, Daily at 13:00 and 15:00. In 1577 the Swedish king Erik XIV died during his imprisonment here. According to legend he was poisoned through a plate of pea soup! The Castle area is free. Guided tours are 60 kr. Örbyhus Castle (Q2371512) on Wikidata Örbyhus Castle on Wikipedia
  • 13 Västerås Castle (Västerås slott) (Västerås), +46 21-480 04 67. Famous for the Parliamentary decision of 1527 when King Gustav Wasa abolished Catholicism in Sweden, making Sweden a protestant country. The Västerås castle was erected around 1200, but what is seen of the castle today was built by Gustav Vasa mid-1500. The castle is a rather ugly building clearly meant for defence and not to impress by look. Nowadays it contains a conference hall, restaurant and a minor exhibition. Västerås Castle (Q2243915) on Wikidata Västerås Castle on Wikipedia
  • 14 Västerås Cathedral (Västerås Domkyrka), Västra Kyrkogatan 6 (Västerås), +46 21-81 46 11. The oldest parts of the cathedral were built around 1200. The oldest son of Gustav Vasa, Erik XIV, is buried in the church. Erik XIV is mostly famous because he was killed by poisoned pea soup. Summertime appointments for guided tours can be made between 11:00 and 13:00 at the tourist office. Västerås Cathedral (Q1236708) on Wikidata Västerås Cathedral on Wikipedia
  • 15 Kalmar Castle (Kalmar Slott) (Kalmar). A 12th century castle, where the Kalmar Union was formed in 1397. During the Swedish War of Independence, Swedes commanded by Anna Eriksdotter Bielke defended the castle and city against Danish incursions until having to surrender in August or September 1520. After war damage and a fire in 1642 the castle fell into disrepair but was reconstructed in the late 19th century. Kalmar Castle (Q648226) on Wikidata Kalmar Castle on Wikipedia
  • 8 Karlshamn. The other 17th-century city in southeastern Sweden to be named after a king Charles. After the treaty of Roskilde when Blekinge became part of Sweden, Charles X Gustav decided to establish a harbor at this place. A fort was set up in 1659, and a town was established by royal charter in 1664, the same year the king passed away. It was named Karlshamn (Charles' harbor) after him two years later. Today it's an industrial small town and a notable port.


Finland differed in many ways from the other Swedish possessions outside present-day Sweden. It wasn't a possession as such but one of the four "lands" (back then known as Österland, lit. Eastland) – of which there are three left today (Götaland, Svealand and Norrland, albeit the latter also encompassed the northern half of present day Finland). Indeed it wasn't even thought of as a foreign country, and there were for example representatives from present-day Finland at the general assembly (riksdagen). Many other possessions stayed part of Sweden for a century at most, but Finland became part of Sweden already through the Swedish "crusades" in the 12th and 13th century and remained so until 1809.

Thus many Finnish cities were founded by Swedish kings and governor-generals, and overall the Swedish heritage is much more pronounced here than anywhere else outside Sweden. There is a Swedish speaking minority living along much of the coasts and in the archipelago including Åland, though they identify as Swedish-speaking Finns rather than Swedes living in Finland.

Attractions from the Swedish period here tend to be less pompous than in Sweden (for instance the castles in present-day Finland are more of fortifications). Aside of the southeastern part of "Österland", nowadays part of Russia, this part of the Swedish realm saw little warfare until the 18th century.

Turku castle
  • 9 Turku (Åbo). Turku is the oldest city in Finland and was founded in the early 13th century (first mentioned in 1229). During Swedish times it was the biggest city as well as the administrative seat of the area. The name Finland originally referred to just the region around Turku, today this region is known as Finland Proper (Fin. Varsinais-Suomi, Swe. Egentliga Finland). Two of Turku's top sights are from the Swedish time; the castle and the cathedral. The massive 1827 fire destroyed much of the city (including damaging the cathedral), though the district of Luostarinmäki/Klosterbacken, now an open air museum, was spared.
  • 10 Porvoo (Borgå). Porvoo, the second oldest Finnish city was first mentioned in a text from 1351. Burned by pirates and Russian troops and being officially disestablished (in order to get people to move to newly established Helsinki), it finally became an important trading point on the Finnish south coast in the 17th century. Also, when Vyborg with surroundings were ceded to Russia after the Great Norhtern War, the bishops seat and middle school were moved here. When Finland became part of Russia in 1809, the Diet of Porvoo was held in the city hall, where the Grand Duchy of Finland was established.
  • 11 Hamina (Fredrikshamn). A look at a city map reveals old Hamina has a city structure unique for Finland. It's laid out as a bastion, because it was founded in 1723 as a border fort against Russia after the Great Northern War when the border had moved west. The Swedish king of the time was Fredrik I, and the city was named after him; Fredrikshamn translates to Fredrik's harbor.
  • 16 Olavinlinna (Olofsborg) (Savonlinna (Nyslott)), +358 15 531-164. The castle is open daily 10:00–18:00 in summer, 11:00–16:00 during the rest of the year.. Medieval Olavinlinna is the city's symbol and main attraction. Built in 1475 by Danish knight Erik Axelsson to protect the eastern border of the Swedish-Danish Kalmar Union, it was named after the patron saint of knights, St. Olaf. The Russians were soon on the offensive, but the castle withstood several sieges before capitulating in 1714. The Swedes recaptured it in 1721, but lost it again in 1743, and it stayed in Russian hands until Finnish independence in 1917. This also explains why it has stayed in such good shape: for the Russians, it was far inland and militarily useless, and hence not a target for the enemy either. Today, Olavinlinna is the world's northernmost medieval stone castle and easily Finland's best-preserved and most attractive castle, and it's quite a sight perched on the shores of the lake. The interior, though, is surprisingly small and sparse (virtually all furniture and decorations were lost in fires in around 1870), and free guided tours take one hour. There are two small museums inside the castle: the Castle Museum which covers the castle's history and the Orthodox Museum with Russian Orthodox Christian icons and paraphernalia. Guided tours in English run every hour in summer (enquire in advance at in other seasons), but you can still visit the museums and courtyards without it. Entry to the castle is €5/3.50 adult/child. Olavinlinna Castle (Q251272) on Wikidata Olavinlinna on Wikipedia
  • 17 Suomenlinna (Sveaborg) (Helsinki/South). The "Gibraltar of the North" was once the greatest sea fortress in the Baltic, built by the Swedish in the mid-1700s at great expense to protect their eastern flank. But when the Russians invaded in February 1808, the bulk of the unprepared and bankrupt Swedish army hastily withdrew, allowing the Russians to conquer Helsinki without a fight and besiege the fortress. With no reinforcements in sight, commander Carl Olof Cronstedt surrendered unconditionally two months later, and Finland was ceded to the Russians. Cronstedt's actions probably saved countless civilian lives, but King Gustav IV needed a scapegoat and sentenced him to death for treason; fortunately, the losing king was himself soon overthrown, and Cronstedt lived out his years gardening. Today's Suomenlinna is still living in its own time with only old buildings, few cars, fewer than a thousand inhabitants and lots of old fortifications, catacombs and cast iron cannons.

Norway and Denmark[edit]

In 1397 the Nordic countries formed the Kalmar Union to counter Hanseatic influence in the Baltic Sea. In practice Denmark was in charge of the union, something that Swedish nobility wasn't happy with (leading to several minor rebellions). In 1520, when Christian II, King of Denmark was coronated as the King of Sweden he wanted to show he wasn't to be messed with and immediately ordered Swedish anti-unionists to be rounded up and publicly executed. This had the opposite result, leading to the Swedish War of Liberation, and the establishment of a Swedish state. After this Denmark (and Norway, part of the union until the Napoleonic wars) and Sweden remained enemies for several centuries; several wars were fought between them, or between different alliances where Denmark and Sweden would join opposite sides.

  • 12 Trøndelag. Trøndelag, a province in the middle of Norway was briefly part of Sweden from 1658 to 1660, from the Treaty of Roskilde to the Treaty of Copenhagen. The Swedes paid a short visit to the region about 60 years later, beginning with an unsuccessful siege of Trondheim and ending in a snowstorm in the mountains.
  • 18 Kristiansten Fortress (Kristiansten festning) (Trondheim). Small fortress on a hill overlooking the centre. Have a walk in the area for good views of Trondheim. If you can't be bothered with the hills, get bus 63 to Ankersgata, or rent a bike and use the bike lift! The only time the fortress has been in use was when the Carolean troops tried to invade Norway in late 1718. Kristiansten Fortress (Q2705932) on Wikidata Kristiansten Fortress on Wikipedia
  • 19 Fredriksten fortress (Halden). This is where the Swedish king Carl XII (Charles XII) was killed - in 1718 - during the Great Northern War between Sweden and Norway, at that time a province of Denmark.
View across Öresund at its narrowest point from Elsinore (Helsingør) to Helsingborg just a few kms apart. For centuries Denmark charged tolls for sailing through, much to the irriation to the Swedes.
  • 13 Öresund (Øresund in Danish). The sound, at its narrowest place 5 km across, forms the border between Denmark and Sweden since 1658. Before that, both sides were Danish territory. The Danish sounds were the only ways to sail between the Baltic Sea and the Atlantic, and from 1429 to 1857 the Danish charged tolls for ships passing through. The tolls were the most important source of income for the Danish crown, and helped financing many of the country's palaces and other grand buildings. At times Swedish ships were not obligated to pay the toll, at other times they had to pay, and the rise of tolls in 1643 was a casus belli for the Torstensson War between the countries. Sweden gaining control over the eastern side of the sound didn't end the toll collection, but at least now they didn't have cannons on both sides on the sound to sink ships that sailed through without paying.
  • 20 [dead link] Skibsklarergaarden, Strandgade 91 (Elsinore), +45 49 28 18 36. Tu-F 12:00-16:00, Sa 10:00-14:00. The city's, if not the country's best preserved merchant house from where they used to handle the paperwork for the Øresund tolls and supply foreign ships with provisions for the onward journey. It hails back to the 16th century, while the current building overlooking the harbour is from 1780. Nearly all the interior is original, and there is also a small shop which sells samples of some of the original items sold here. Only open for guided tours at 30 kr per person.
  • 14 Roskilde (treaty). In the Second Northern War, the Swedes were fighting against the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth near Warsaw, when Denmark declared war. The troops then marched west, took Jutland, and in February of 1658 marched across the belts that were frozen over (this was during the Little Ice Age). As the Swedes led by Charles X Gustav were at the gates of Copenhagen having taken virtually all of present-day Denmark, they could set forth hefty demands in the peace negotiations in Roskilde. Sweden received the provinces of Scania, Blekinge, Halland permanently, Bohuslän as well as Trøndelag and Bornholm that they would return two years later.

Baltic countries[edit]

The Swedish gate in Old Riga

For big parts of the last millenium or so, the present-day Baltic states have been ruled by northern European major powers; Sweden, Denmark, Russia or German states. Lithuania did together with Poland form a major regional power, pretty much during the same era that Sweden rose to greatness (from 1569 to 1795). Sweden ruled the northern half of present day Estonia ("Swedish Estonia") since 1561, the remainder of Estonia plus the northern half of Latvia ("Swedish Livonia") since 1629, and Saaremaa since 1645. All of the Baltic possessions were ceded to Russia after the Great Northern War.

The northwestern corner of Estonia had a Swedish minority already before the Swedish rule, and despite repressions, deportations to Ukraine and emigration to Sweden during Russian rule there's still a small Swedish minority there. They're known as aibofolke ("island people" in ancient Swedish), or rannarootslased ("coastal Swedes" in Estonian).

Swedish Livonia was seen as an important dominion from the beginning on, and the rich city of Riga as a big prize. Here the Swedes established many institutions such as the general government, a local parliament, law courts, educational institutions, a land surveying institute and a national bank.

  • 15 Hiiumaa (Dagö). Controlled by Sweden from 1563 to 1721, though the first Swedes settled here already in the 13th century. During the Swedish era, the island was an important center for Estonian Swedes. Back then the capital of the island was Hohenholm (Kõrgessaare in modern Estonian). After the Great Northern War, when the island became Russian, the Swedish still retained many of their rights. Although some emigrated to Sweden, and others were deported to Gammelsvenskby in Ukraine (see below) in 1781, there were still 2000 living on the island at the end of the 18th century. The following exodus took place after WWII, when Estonia became part of the Soviet Union. But some people identifiying as Swedes still live on Hiiumaa, and the local dialect of Estonian has influences from Swedish.
Road sign on Vormsi; most names listed here have Swedish origin (by means village in Swedish)
  • 16 Vormsi (Ormsö). The western Estonian island that has the most visible Swedish heritage today. Almost all villages and settlements have Swedish names, and about 300 of the island's 400 inhabitants claim Estonian Swedish ancestry. A notable building from Swedish times is the Lutheran church in Hullo village.
  • 17 Haapsalu and Noarootsi. The Haapsalu region and the Noarootsi peninsula to the north were the most important mainland settlements of the coastal Swedes. Like the rest of northwestern Estonia, the city and the region was controlled by the Teutonic Order until 1581 when the Swedes marched in. Parts of Haapsalu castle was built during Swedish rule, though overall this era meant a bit of a decline for the city. It was largely destroyed in the Great Northern War, but eventually rebuilt as a resort city.
  • 21 Museum of the Coastal Swedes (Rannarootsi Muuseum), Sadama tn 31 - 32 (Haapsalu), +372 4737165. Tu–Sa 10–18:00, Su–M 10–16:00. The museum introduces the thousand-year-old settlements of the coastal Swedes in Estonia. In the house inaugurated by the King of Sweden, you can acquaint yourself with their unique cultural heritage and see a 20-metre embroidered rug that depicts the life of the Estonian-Swedes.
  • 18 Saaremaa (Ösel). Kuressaare, Saaremaa's capital was established by the crusaders. The island was one of the last parts of the Baltic states Sweden got control over, after the Treaty of Brömsebo. Saaremaa too had Swedish inhabitants since the middle ages, and there are some placenames showcasing this, but this heritage is much less pronounced than further north.
  • 19 Tallinn. Tallinn too was already a well established city, and the world heritage listed old town generally dates from the times before the Swedish era, but the Swedes did control it for a century and a half. For an European city that has been ruled by several powers over the centuries, Tallinn's medieval old town has survived very well and doesn't differ too much from what it looked like as a Swedish city. Head to St. Mary's cathedral to see the graves of some prominent Swedish military from that time.
  • 20 Narva. Narva, today at the Estonian-Russian border, was the site of many military confrontations between Sweden and Russia. After a failed attempt two years earlier, the Swedes took the city and its fort in 1581. At that the Swedes also conquered Ingria. During the 17th century Sweden fended off Russian attacks several times, while strengthening and expanding the fort. In November 1700, at the beginning of the Great Northern War the Swedes crushed a much larger Russian invasion force - the is the most famous Battle of Narva. Four years later the Russian empire would manage to take Narva.
  • 21 Tartu. Tartu is the main university city of Estonia. During Polish-Lithuanian times, a Jesuit grammar school functioned here, which was upgraded to university status in 1632 by the Swedes. Eventually the institution was moved to Tallinn and closed. A new university, the Academia Gustavo-Carolina was established in 1690 and this is the present-day Tartu university, even if the language of teaching has changed many times over since.
Colonial coin (besittningsmynt) issued in Riga
  • 22 Riga. The former Hanseatic city was held by Sweden for almost a century and at the time it was the largest or second largest city in the empire. Many governmental institutions were set up here during Swedish rule. The Lutheran Church of Jesus, the Swedish Gate and the Powder tower are some notable buildings from that era.
  • 23 Salaspils (Battle of Kircholm). Today the village is best known for the probably most infamous Nazi concentration camp in the Baltics. From a Swedish perspective it's known for a battle in the Swedish-Polish war in 1605 that went badly. A more than three times bigger Swedish army was beaten by the Poles, an event that prompted the Swedish army to develop more effective tactics.


Aside of Denmark, the Russian Empire was another country the Swedish Empire often went to war with; already Swedish and Novgorodian crusaders contended for the control of the Gulf of Finland. During the Russian "time of troubles" in the early 17th century, one of the claimants to the Russian throne (Vasili IV) asked Sweden for help, promising them parts of Karelia in exchange, and so the Swedish army plus European mercenaries marched to Moscow (known as the de la Gardie campaign) to support him. In 1610 the Russian-Swedish force was beaten at Klushino, and Vasili IV was ousted.

Then, the Swedes instead started conquering areas in the northwest of the country (known as the Ingrian War), and as a result Russia lost its access to the Baltic Sea for a century. At that point, something interesting happened. The Swedes were asked by Novgorod (held by Sweden from 1611 to 1617) to appoint a candidate for the Russian throne, and Charles Philip, the younger brother of Gustavus Adolphus was appointed and he was already making his way to Russia. Michael I would be chosen as the czar, and in that sense the Swedish adventure in Russia would be over.

Sweden would hold on to its possessions in present-day Russia until the Great Northern War which meant the decline of the Swedish Empire and the emergence of the Russian, led by Peter the Great. Sweden's Baltic possessions, present-day Leningrad Oblast and Karelia became Russian, and notably Saint Petersburg would be founded on the site of the Swedish village of Nyen. After the war, the border would go roughly where today's Finnish-Russian border goes, although the Russian forces did occupy all of Finland during the last years of the war (the period was known as the Greater Wrath in Finland), and also launch attacks on the Swedish east coast.

Whereas the 17th century meant relatively few hostilities between these two countries, several would follow over the 18th. In the Hat's Russian war in the 1740's a bit more of Finland was ceded to Russia, the war of 1788-90 didn't result in territorial changes, and finally in the Finnish War of 1808-09, all of Finland became a Grand Duchy of the Russian Empire.

Statue of Vyborg Castle's (and therethrough Vyborg's) founder Torkel Knutsson outside the old city hall
  • 24 Vyborg (Viborg). Vyborg Castle was set up by the Swedes in 1293 as a border outpost, and in 1403 Vyborg got city rights. It was the capital of Fief of Viborg (Sw. Viborgs slottslän, "lit. Vyborg castle province"), one of three such subdivisions of then-Finland and an important trading center. The city was besieged by Russians a couple of times, but until 1710 it remained Swedish. The city's medieval landmarks; the castle, the round tower, and the walls are all from the Swedish era.
  • 25 Priozersk (Kexholm). Not far from Vyborg, at the shore of Lake Ladoga, this city too has a medieval fortress, Korela, but it's Russian built. Priozersk was Swedish for a few years during the Ingrian War, and again from 1611 to 1710. During that time, it was mostly a Swedish military city, and a Lutheran congregation was established there.
  • 26 Novgorod. One of the historical cities of Russia, and one of the parties to the Treaty of Nöteborg. Occupied by the Swedes from 1611 to 1617 during the de la Gardie campaign.
  • 27 Moscow and surroundings. Supporters of Vasili IV, Swedish soldiers and mercenaries under command of Jacob de la Gardie marched from Novgorod to Moscow, breaking up courts of and sieges by False Dmitry II and his Polish supporters before arriving in Moscow in March 1610. A few months later, they would continue towards Smolensk which was besieged by the Poles.
  • 22 Nienschantz monument (Saint Petersburg/Right Bank, Spb metro line4.svg: Ploshchad Alexandra Nevskogo II 'Площадь Александра Невского-2', across the bridge). After the Ingrian War, in 1617, Sweden gained control over roughly today's Leningrad Oblast and southern half of Karelia. After that town by the name of Nyen (Swedish name for Neva) was set up here, at the confluence of the Neva and Okhta, together with Nyenskans (lit. "Nyen bastion"). Peter the Great conquered the fort in 1703, and started building present day Saint Petersburg around the location. Nowadays there is a nice commemorative marker, and no crowds at all.
  • 23 Oreshek fortress (Nöteborg) (Shlisselburg). The first peace treaty between Sweden and Russia was signed here in 1323. The area including the fortress was under Swedish control during most of the 17th century.

Ukraine and southeastern Europe[edit]

Sweden didn't hold any territory here, but this corner of Europe has some notable "Swedish" destinations; most of them related to the campaign by Charles XII in the Great Northern War.

Glory monument in Poltava commemorating the battle
  • 28 Poltava. The site of perhaps Sweden's most famous military defeat. Charles XII attempted to invade Russia during the Great Northern War, but like other armies who have attempted it, the winter of 1708-09 was harsh on the Caroleans. The Swedes managed to defeat a larger Russian force in Holowczyn east of Minsk in the summer of 1708, but a year later the Caroleans together with their Cossack Hetmanate allies were defeated on 8 July 1709 and it meant the end of the invasion. A few days later virtually the whole Swedish army capitulated in Perevolochna, south of Poltava.
  • 29 Bendery. Charles XII with some troops escaped from Poltava and make it to the friendly Ottoman Empire that had a history of animosity towards Russia. They were allowed to settle in Varnitsa next to Bendery, at the expense of the sultan. The Russians tried to come and get the Swedish king resulting in the Russo-Turkish war where the Russians were beaten. Nevertheless, in 1713 the Turks had had it supporting Charles (who again tried to persuade the sultan to go to war with Russia) and a few thousand men, so they decided to arrest the Swedes. The Swedes put up a fight, and the skirmish on 1 February 1713 was known as Kalabaliken i Bender. Kalabalık is Turkish for "gathering", but after the event the word was borrowed into Swedish, meaning "disorder" or "disturbance".
  • 30 Didymoteicho. After his arrest in Bendery, Charles XII was brought to this town, at the present day border of Greece and Turkey. He spent a year and a half in house arrest here, and through letter correspondence he learned about the situation in Sweden and in Europe. In September 1714 he left for Pitești, and in October the king rode from there in just 14 days up to Stralsund in Swedish Pomerania.
  • 31 Gammalsvenskby. The Estonian islands fell into Russian hands after the Great Northern War. At the beginning, the Swedish minority that stayed did retain their rights. Nevertheless, much of the Swedish population of Dagö (Ösel) was deported to Ukraine in August 1782. Out of the 1000 starting the foot march, only 135 would arrive next March in the place now known as Gammelsvenskby (Ukr. Старошведське), translating to "Old Swedish village". The community has went through hard times, especially during the Soviet Union and WWII, though there are still about 150 inhabitants in the village claiming Swedish heritage and some speaking the Old Swedish dialect.

Germany and Poland[edit]

Lützen town hall with a statue of Gustavus Adolphus, and to the left below, a Swedish blazon

Sweden intervened in the Thirty Year's War to support the Protestant side, and made several incursions into present-day Germany, well into Bavaria. After the war they came to control three areas whose borders were far from stable over the years. These were Wismar until 1803 and Bremen-Werden until 1712 and Swedish Pomerania until 1815. The latter was the biggest of them covering most of the coast of present-day Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, including Rügen and going all the way to Szczecin.

For a few years in the late 16th century, Poland and Sweden were ruled by the same monarch, the Catholic Sigismund III Vasa, and the breakup of this union lead to the long Swedish-Polish war.

Other than that, the Swedish didn't have real possessions in Poland but they did invade a few times. Coastal cities of the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth like Elblag, Baltiysk and Klaipeda were occupied during the Swedish-Polish war and the overlapping Thirty Years War. After the latter, through the 1656 Treaty of Königsberg, the Duchy of Prussia became a Swedish fief.

  • 32 Bremen-Verden. Despite the name, it didn't include the city of Bremen, but the area from the city border north to Elbe and the sea. It did go to war with the city on two occasions. The capital of the area was Stade. A former grain storage of the Swedish army now houses the Stade museum for cultural history.
The old market square in Stralsund has some "Swedish imperial" architecture, such as the City hall to the right in the picture and the Commander's house which is the middle one of the houses to the left
  • 33 Stralsund. This city has a great number of Swedish buildings. The tower of St. Mary's church was destroyed by lighting in 1647, and was rebuilt to its current form during the Swedish era, finished in 1708. Another attraction of the church is the organ by Friedrich Stellwagen finished in 1659. Catharine Monastery was used as an arsenal by the Swedes (it had already ceased to serve as a monastery earlier). The city hall went through a major renovation during the Swedish era, and one of its halls is named Löwen Hall after general-governor Axel von Löwen. The Commander's House was built to house the command of the Swedish garrison from 1751, and it still retains its blazon on the façade. Meyerfeldt Palace from 1730 was built for the governor-general Meyerfeldt as Stettin had been lost and Stralsund.
  • 34 Greifswald. Capital of Swedish Pomerania 1720-1814. A notable building from the Schwedenzeit (Swedish time) is the University Main Building from 1750.
  • 35 Wismar. The Swedish tribunal was the main courthouse for the Swedish possessions south of the Baltic Sea and it was housed in Fürstenhof in Wismar for almost all of the Swedish time. A fortification system was set up around the city, which was largely destroyed during the Great Northern War but there are still a few remains visible. Central Wismar, together with Stralsund, is a world heritage site.
  • 36 Rügen. This island too formed part of Swedish Pomerania. Spyker Castle in Glowe, built in the 13th century, became the residence of the Swedish governor-general Wrangel in 1649, and later on it became the property of the Brahe family. After the Napoleonic Wars, the castle was sold to the Prussian prince. Nowadays the castle is a hotel.
  • 37 Lützen. The site of one of the most famous battles in the Thirty Year's War, where on 6 November 1632 the Swedes beat the Catholic forces but king Gustavus Adolphus died in battle.
  • 38 Szczecin. Capital of Swedish Pomerania 1630-1720.

Outside Europe[edit]

The Delaware Monument in Fort Christina Park, Wilmington (Delaware)
  • 39 New Sweden, Delaware. New Sweden was the largest Swedish territory outside Europe. It included both banks of Delaware River from the Atlantic up to present-day Philadelphia. The colony was established in 1638 by the Swedish South Company, when Fort Christina was set up in what is now Wilmington. The colony was invaded by the Dutch in 1655 and incorporated into New Netherlands, and while many residents stayed, large scale Swedish immigration to the US wouldn't begin until 200 years later. American Swedish Historical Museum is in South Philadelphia.
  • 24 Old Swedes' church (Holy Trinity Church) (Wilmington (Delaware)). Although the area known as New Sweden became Dutch then English later, the Swedish and Finnish settlers chose to stay. In 1699 the Swedish community opened this church as the first Lutheran church in the New World. Still in use, though services are conducted in English, it's the oldest continuously used church in the United States.
  • 25 Fort Christina State Park (Wilmington (Delaware)). A park where Fort Christina was established in 1638. During the era of English control it fell into disrepair, and in the War of 1812 Americans built Fort Union on the site. Nowadays just a memorial is left.
  • 26 Kalmar Nyckel (Wilmington (Delaware)). A 1998 replica of Kalmar Nyckel ("Key of Kalmar"), one of the two ships bringing the first settlers to New Sweden (the other was named Fågel Grip). Based in Wilmington, and makes cruises on the Delaware River.
  • 27 Gloria Dei Church (Old Swedes'), 8 Christian St (at Columbus Blvd., Philadelphia/South), +1 215 389-1513. Almost simultaneously with the Old Swedish church in Wilmington, Gloria Dei was constructed and opened in 1700 as a place of worship for the Swedish community in the area making up present-day Philadelphia. In 1845 Gloria Dei became an Episcopalian church. Gloria Dei (Old Swedes') Church (Q4352333) on Wikidata Gloria Dei (Old Swedes') Church on Wikipedia
Swedish steeple in Gustavia
  • 40 St Barthelemy. The French traded Saint Barthelemy to Sweden in 1784 for trading rights in Gothenburg. Some tropical plants were grown here, but it was most important as a free port. Therethrough Saint Barthelemy came to be a transit point for the Atlantic slave trade. The island's capital Gustavia, named after king Gustav III was established right when the Swedish rule started, and there are many buildings and sites in the city from the Swedish time. Some streets also have their old Swedish names signposted. It was sold back to France in 1878.
  • 41 Guadeloupe. For a short time, Sweden had a second possession in the Caribbean. In the Napoleonic Wars, the British invaded Guadeloupe which was French and gave it to Sweden in 1813 for military cooperation against France and trading rights in Swedish ports. Nevertheless, the Swedish didn't in practice take the island into possession and the handed it back to the French in 1814.
  • 42 Swedish Gold Coast. Sweden operated forts and trading posts also called "factories", in present-day Ghana from 1650 to 1663. These were Fort Carlsborg, Fort William, Fort Batenstein, Fort Christiansborg, Fort Witsen, Fort Apollonia, Gemoree Factory and Accara Factory. The forts changed hands among colonial powers in the region and some may be better known by other names.
Cape Coast castle, first established as Fort Carolusborg
  • 28 Fort Carlsborg/Carolusborg (Cape Coast Castle) (Cape Coast). The Swedish established a fort in 1653 to trade in tobacco, gold, slaves, sugar and timber, and it was later rebuilt in stone. Carolusborg was captured by the Danish in 1658, before in turn being annexed by the Dutch in 1663. The very next year, the English launched a successful invasion of the fort during the Second Anglo-Dutch War. Due to damage suffered by the fort due to man-made and environmental causes, the fort was rebuilt by the British in the 18th century, which is how the structure looks like for the most part in the 21st century.
  • 29 Fort William (Anomabu). Built by the Dutch in 1640 as a lodge, the Swedes held it from 1653 to 1657.
  • 30 Fort Batenstein (Butre). Built by the Dutch on the site of a Swedish trading post, to prevent the Swedes from landing there again.
  • 31 Osu Castle (Christiansborg Castle), 2 Barnes Road, Adabraka (Accra), +233-302 221633. The predecessor of the fort was a Swedish trading post and lodge, built in 1652. In 1660 the Dutch captured the are briefly before the Danish arrived. They built the castle on the site of the Swedish lodge. Before it was claimed by Denmark, it was used for trading precious metals, but once the Danes took power, it became a place to store slaves prior to shipping them. Later it became the headquarters of the Danish Gold Coast. Since that time, it has been used as a government building and when Ghana gained independence in 1957, it became the Presidential House. It remains the seat of government today, although there is controversy because of its ties to the slave trade. It is not open to walk-in visitors. Armed guards stand outside and they typically don't allow photos to be taken. Rules about pictures change sporadically, but it's best (safest) not to try. Osu Castle (Q1082964) on Wikidata Osu Castle on Wikipedia
  • 32 Fort Witsen (Takoradi). Built by the Dutch in 1665, on a Swedish trading post functioning from 1653 to 1658.
  • 33 Fort Apollonia (Kengen). The Swedish operated a trading post here from 1655 to 1657. Later a British trading point was here, and in 1770 it was expanded into the present-day fort.
  • 43 Parangipettai, India. Swedish colonial contact with Asia was limited to ships sailing to Asian ports. The Swedish East India Company set up their own trading post ("factory") in Parangipettai on the Indian east coast in 1733. Nevertheless in less than a month it was attacked by the British and French and the Swedes left.

See also[edit]

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