Sweden is home to several well-known writers, including August Strindberg, Astrid Lindgren, and Nobel Prize winners Selma Lagerlöf and Harry Martinson. Swedes have received seven Nobel Prizes in Literature in total. The country’s most well-known artists are painters Carl Larsson and Anders Zorn, as well as sculptors Tobias Sergel and Carl Milles.
Pioneering works in the early days of film by Mauritz Stiller and Victor Sjöström are notable examples of Swedish 20th-century culture. In the 1920s–1980s, director Ingmar Bergman and actresses Greta Garbo and Ingrid Bergman rose to worldwide prominence in the film industry. Lukas Moodysson’s and Lasse Hallström’s films have lately gained worldwide acclaim.
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Sweden was seen as a worldwide pioneer in what is now known as the “sexual revolution,” with gender equality being emphasized in particular. At the moment, the number of single individuals in the globe is among the highest in the world. I Am Curious (Yellow) (1967), an early Swedish film, represented a liberal perspective of sexuality, featuring sequences of love making that drew worldwide notice, and established the idea of the “Swedish sin,” which had been popularized earlier in the US with Ingmar Bergman’s Summer with Monika.
“Hot love and frigid people” developed as a metaphor. Sexual liberalism was seen as part of the modernisation process, which would lead to the liberation of natural energies and desires through breaking down conventional boundaries.
Sweden has also grown extremely tolerant towards homosexuality, as shown by the widespread acceptance of films like Show Me Love, about two young lesbians in the tiny Swedish town of ml. Sweden has abolished its “registered partnership” regulations and completely replaced them with gender-neutral marriage since 1 May 2009. Sweden also allows domestic partnerships for both same-sex and opposite-sex couples. Cohabitation (sammanboende) is common among couples of various ages, including adolescents and elderly couples. Sweden has recently seen a baby boom.
Sweden has a rich musical heritage that ranges from medieval folk songs to hip hop music. The music of the pre-Christian Norse has been lost to history, but historical re-creations based on instruments discovered at Viking sites have been attempted. The lur (a kind of trumpet), basic string instruments, wooden flutes, and drums were utilized. It’s likely that some of the ancient Swedish folk music carries on the Viking musical heritage. Sweden has a thriving folk music culture, both in the traditional form and in more contemporary versions that often include elements of rock and jazz. There is also Sami music, known as joik, which is a kind of chant that is part of traditional Saami animistic spirituality but has achieved worldwide prominence in the realm of folk music. Carl Michael Bellman and Franz Berwald are two of Sweden’s most famous and legendary composers.
Sweden also has a strong choral music history, which stems in part from the cultural significance of Swedish folk melodies. In reality, it is believed that five to six hundred thousand individuals sing in choirs out of a population of 9.5 million.
Sweden was the world’s third-largest music exporter in 2007, with over 800 million dollars in income, behind only the United States and the United Kingdom. According to one statistic, Sweden had the most chart hits per capita in the world in 2013, followed by the United Kingdom and the United States. ABBA was one of the first globally well-known popular music bands from Sweden, and it remains one of the world’s most famous bands, with over 370 million albums sold. Sweden began a new era with ABBA, during which Swedish pop music achieved worldwide popularity.
Since then, several more globally popular bands have emerged, including Roxette, Ace of Base, Europe, A-teens, The Cardigans, Robyn, The Hives, and Soundtrack of Our Lives, to mention a few.
Sweden is also well-known for its heavy metal bands, such as Bathory, Opeth, Amon Amarth, and Ghost. Yngwie Malmsteen, the famous neo-classical power metal guitarist, is also from Sweden.
Denniz Pop’s Cheiron Studios became an international hit factory beginning in the 1990s, with his disciple Max Martin responsible for Britney Spears’ breakthrough songs as well as shaping the entire boy-band boom at the turn of the millennium with global hits for groups such as the Backstreet Boys and ‘N Sync. Martin returned in the mid-2000s with a more rock-tinged style, producing big successes with singers such as Kelly Clarkson, Pink, and Katy Perry. RedOne, a Moroccan-Swede who has created a plethora of songs for Lady Gaga, is another producer worth noting.
Sweden is one of the most successful participating countries at the Eurovision Song Contest, having won six times (1974, 1984, 1991, 1999, 2012, and 2015), behind only Ireland, which has seven wins. In the Eurovision Song Contest, each participating country submits an original song to be performed live on television and radio; however, there are no restrictions on the nationality of the songwriter and artist, resulting in countries being represented by songwriters and artists who are not nationals of that country. In recent years, Swedish composers have been engaged in the composition of entries from a variety of nations, including Sweden. For example, in the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest, Swedish songwriters and producers appeared in 10 of the 42 songs that qualified for the competition; in 2013, the figures were 7 songs out of 39 songs in the contest; in 2014, 7 songs out of 37 songs in the contest; in 2015, 8 songs out of 40 songs in the contest; and in 2016, 12 songs out of 42 songs in the contest.
Sweden has a thriving jazz scene. It has achieved a very high creative quality during the past sixty years or more, fueled by both local and foreign inspirations and experiences. Lars Westin’s summary of jazz in Sweden has been published by the Centre for Swedish Folk Music and Jazz Research.
Prior to the 13th century, nearly all structures were constructed of wood, but a move toward stone started. The Romanesque churches in the countryside are examples of early Swedish stone structures. Many of them, as it happens, were constructed in Scania and are therefore Danish churches. This would include the 11th-century Lund Cathedral and the slightly newer church in Dalby, as well as numerous early Gothic buildings constructed under the influence of the Hanseatic League, such as in Ystad, Malmö, and Helsingborg.
Cathedrals were also constructed in various areas of Sweden to serve as the seat of Sweden’s bishops. Skara Cathedral was built in the 14th century, and Uppsala Cathedral in the 15th. The foundations of the Linköping Cathedral were laid in 1230; the material used was limestone, but the construction took almost 250 years to complete.
Among the older constructions are several important fortifications and other historical buildings, such as those at Borgholm Castle, Halltorps Manor and Eketorp stronghold on the island of Land, Nyköpingfortress, and Visby city wall.
Around 1520, Sweden emerged from the Middle Ages and was unified under King Gustav Vasa, who promptly began the construction of magnificent palaces, castles, and fortifications. The Kalmar stronghold, Gripsholm Castle, and Vadstena Castle are among the most impressive.
Sweden was defined by Baroque architecture and, subsequently, rococo architecture throughout the following two centuries. Karlskrona, which has since been designated a World Heritage Site, and the Drottningholm Palace are two notable constructions from the era.
The great Stockholm exhibition of 1930 heralded the breakthrough of Functionalism, or “funkis” as it became called. In the decades that followed, the style began to dominate. The Million Programme, which provided inexpensive housing in huge apartment complexes, was a noteworthy example of this kind of initiative.
Swedes are among the world’s largest newspaper users, with a local paper serving almost every municipality. Dagens Nyheter (liberal), Göteborgs-Posten (liberal), Svenska Dagbladet (liberal conservative), and Sydsvenska Dagbladet are the country’s major quality morning newspaper (liberal). Aftonbladet (social democratic) and Expressen (conservative) are the two biggest evening tabloids (liberal). Metro Worldwide, an ad-financed, free international morning daily, was established in Stockholm, Sweden. The Local, among others, covers the country’s news in English (liberal).
For a long time, state broadcasting firms in Sweden had a monopoly on radio and television. Radio transmissions were first licensed in 1925. In response to pirate radio stations, a second radio network was established in 1954, followed by a third in 1962. Non-profit community radio was legalized in 1979, and commercial local radio began in 1993.
In 1956, the government-funded television service was formally established. In 1969, TV2 was established as a second channel. These two stations (owned by Sveriges Television from the late 1970s) had a monopoly until the 1980s, when cable and satellite television were introduced. TV3, which began transmitting from London in 1987, was the first Swedish language satellite channel. Kanal 5 (then known as Nordic Channel) followed in 1989, and TV4 in 1990.
The government stated in 1991 that it would begin accepting proposals from commercial television firms interested in broadcasting on the terrestrial network. TV4, which had previously aired via satellite, was given a licence and started terrestrial transmissions in 1992, becoming the country’s first private station to broadcast television programming.
Cable television is available to about half of the population. In Sweden, digital terrestrial television began in 1999, while analogue terrestrial transmissions were discontinued in 2007.
The Rök Runestone, engraved during the Viking Age about 800 AD, is Sweden’s earliest written text. Sweden entered the Middle Ages after being converted to Christianity about 1100 AD, when monastic authors chose to write in Latin. As a result, there exist just a few manuscripts in Old Swedish from that time period. Swedish literature thrived only when the Swedish language was established in the 16th century, owing to the complete translation of the Bible into Swedish in 1541. This translation is known as the Gustav Vasa Bible.
The 17th century saw many famous writers further refine the Swedish language as a result of better education and the freedom brought about by secularisation. Some important figures include Georg Stiernhielm (17th century), the first to write classical poetry in Swedish; Johan Henric Kellgren (18th century), the first to write fluent Swedish prose; Carl Michael Bellman (late 18th century), the first to write burlesque ballads; and August Strindberg (late 19th century), a socio-realistic writer and playwright who achieved worldwide fame. Selma Lagerlöf (Nobel laureate 1909), Verner von Heidenstam (Nobel laureate 1916), and Pär Lagerkvist were among the prominent writers of the early twentieth century (Nobel laureate 1951).
In recent decades, a number of Swedish authors, notably Henning Mankell, a detective novelist, and Jan Guillou, a spy fiction writer, have achieved worldwide acclaim. Astrid Lindgren, the Swedish children’s book author, has had the greatest enduring impact on global literature with her novels about Pippi Longstocking, Emil, and others. Stieg Larsson, whose Millennium trilogy of crime novels is being released posthumously to great acclaim, was the world’s second best-selling fiction author in 2008. By modeling his main character, Lisbeth Salander, on Longstocking, Larsson relied significantly on Lindgren’s writings.
Aside from conventional Protestant Christian festivals, Sweden observes a number of unique holidays, some of which date back to pre-Christian times. They include Midsummer, which commemorates the summer solstice; Walpurgis Night (Valborgsmässoafton) on 30 April, when bonfires are lit; and Labour Day or Mayday, which is devoted to socialist rallies on 1 May. The 13th of December is the feast day of Saint Lucia, the giver of light, and it is widely celebrated with extravagant festivities that reflect its Italian origins and kick off the month-long Christmas season.
The 6th of June is Sweden’s National Day, and it has been a public holiday since 2005. In addition, there are official flag day observances and a Namesdays calendar in Sweden. Many Swedes celebrate kräftskivor in August (crayfish dinner parties). Martin of Tours Eve is observed in Scania in November with Mrten Gs celebrations that include roast goose and svartsoppa (‘black soup’ consisting of goose stock, fruit, spices, alcohol, and goose blood). The Sami, one of Sweden’s indigenous communities, enjoy their festival on February 6th, while Scania celebrates Scanian Flag Day on the third Sunday in July.
Swedish food, like that of the other Scandinavian nations (Denmark, Norway, and Finland), has historically been straightforward. Fish (especially herring), beef, potatoes, and dairy items all played important roles. The spices were scarce. Swedish meatballs, usually served with sauce, boiled potatoes, and lingonberry jam; pancakes; lutfisk; and the smörgsbord, or extravagant buffet, are all popular dishes. Snaps are a popular alcoholic distilled beverage, and their use is culturally significant. The classic flat and dry crisp bread has given way to many modern variations. Surströmming (fermented fish) is a regionally significant food in northern Sweden, while eel is a regionally important cuisine in Scania in southern Sweden.
Despite the fact that modern-day Swedish cuisine incorporates many foreign foods, Swedish traditional recipes, some of which are hundreds of years old, others maybe a century or less, remain an essential component of Swedish daily meals.
Swedes consume a lot of crayfish cooked with dill during the annual crayfish celebration, kräftskiva, in August.
Throughout the years, Swedes have been very prominent in the film industry. Ingrid Bergman, Greta Garbo, and Max von Sydow are among the Swedish actors who have achieved success in Hollywood. Several filmmakers who have produced globally successful films include Ingmar Bergman, Lukas Moodysson, and Lasse Hallström.
Sweden has a strong fashion industry, with renowned companies such as Hennes & Mauritz (doing business as H&M), J. Lindeberg (doing business as JL), Acne, Lindex, Odd Molly, Cheap Monday, Gant, WESC, Filippa K, and Nakkna headquartered inside its borders. These businesses, on the other hand, are mainly made up of buyers who purchase trendy products from all over Europe and America, continuing the trend of Swedish business toward international economic dependence, as is the case with many of its neighbors.
Sport is a national movement, with half of the population actively engaging in organized sports. Football and ice hockey are the two most popular spectator sports. Horse sports, second only to football, have the most participants, the majority of whom are women. The most popular team sports are handball, floorball, basketball, and bandy, followed by golf, track and field, and the team sports of handball, floorball, basketball, and bandy.
The Swedish national men’s ice hockey team, known colloquially as Tre Kronor (English: Three Crowns; Sweden’s national emblem), is often considered as one of the finest in the world. The team has won the World Championships nine times, ranking third all-time in terms of medal count. Tre Kronor also won gold medals in the Olympics in 1994 and 2006. Tre Kronor became the first national hockey team in history to win both the Olympic and World Championships in the same year in 2006. The Swedish national football team has previously had considerable success in the World Cup, finishing second when they hosted the event in 1958 and third twice, in 1950 and 1994. Athletics has seen a rise in popularity in recent years as a result of successful athletes like as Carolina Klüft and Stefan Holm.
Sweden hosted the 1912 Summer Olympics, the 1956 Summer Olympics, and the 1958 FIFA World Cup. Other notable sporting events include the UEFA Euro 1992, the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 1995, the World Championships in Athletics in 1995, the UEFA Women’s Euro 2013, and many championships in ice hockey, curling, athletics, skiing, bandy, figure skating, and swimming.
Gunnar Nordahl, Gunnar Gren, Nils Liedholm, Henrik Larsson, Fredrik Ljungberg, Caroline Seger, Lotta Schelin, Hedvig Lindahl, and Zlatan Ibrahimovi are all successful football players. Former world number one tennis players include Björn Borg, Mats Wilander, and Stefan Edberg. Other well-known Swedish athletes include heavyweight boxing champion and International Boxing Hall of Famer Ingemar Johansson, World Golf Hall of Famer Annika Sörenstam, and Jan-Ove Waldner, a multiple World Championship and Olympic medallist in table tennis. Sweden has produced a number of world-class winter sports athletes due to its northern latitude. This includes Olympic gold medalists in alpine skiing Ingemar Stenmark, Anja Pärson, and Pernilla Wiberg, as well as cross-country skiers Gunde Svan, Thomas Wassberg, Charlotte Kalla, and Marcus Hellner.
The Swedish Poker Federation (Svepof) joined The International Federation of Poker in 2016. (IFP).