By Per Gahrton
Former Member of the European Parliament, Green Party of Sweden
Lund, Sweden, October 2017
A lecture at the XI Congress of Ukrainian European Studies Association, Kharkiv National University, October 20, 2017
Introduction: Sweden-Ukraine ties
A couple of days ago Swedish media reported that a wild boar, shot some 200 kilometres north of Stockholm, had been found to contain ten times more radioactivity than permitted by the health authorities. As you may guess, this radioactivity emanated from the Tjernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986. This shows that we live in one globalized world and that my Sweden and your Ukraine are linked together.
Another example of Swedish-Ukrainian common experience might be the battle of Poltava in June 1709, which according to Wikipedia resulted in the “beginning of Sweden’s decline as a Great Power”. As belligerents, Wikipedia lists on one side Sweden and Ukraine, on the other Russia.
However, this military defeat against the Tsar may have been a blessing for the Swedes, because afterwards the Swedish people toppled the dictatorship of the king and introduced what is called The Times of Freedom (Frihetstiden), when a four-chamber parliament including peasants, ruled the country for half a century. Though it was not a full-fledged democracy (women and the poorest men were excluded) it was a starting point, well before the French Revolution.
About hundred years later Sweden suffered another defeat against Russia, which in 1809 conquered Finland, a country that until then had been an integral part of the Swedish kingdom.
Although many Swedes wanted to retake Finland, today most historians think that perhaps even this defeat was a blessing, for two reasons: First, the inevitable Finnish struggle for independence – which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year – was not conducted against Sweden but against Russia. And secondly, the political elite decided, as expressed by the famous poet Esaias Tegnér, to “reconquer Finland inside the borders of Sweden” which meant to build a peaceful and rich society and give up wars and dreams of territorial expansion and great power status.
Since then Sweden has been militarily non-aligned and has seen no war for more than 200 years.
Examples of Scandinavian conflict-resolution
However, earlier throughout history Scandinavia has been an arena for endless internal wars, mainly between the Danish and Swedish kingdoms. Like so often people have fought with those who should be their closest friends – their neighbours. Read More »