Culture of Sweden
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Swedish culture has been described as egalitarian, a trait that has been associated with Swedish mentality.
Although Sweden did not formally abolish slavery until the middle of the 14th century, it also did not have serfdom in the Middle Ages; peasant freeholders constituted about 40% of the population, and were one of four estates (together with nobles, clergy, and burghers) in the Diet.
Foreign influences on Sweden
The greatest sources of influence on Swedish culture have been Denmark, Norway and England in the early Middle Ages; Germany during the high and late Middle Ages; an influx of a foreign aristocracy during the 17th century; France during the 18th century; Germany again between the mid 19th and 20th century; and then the English-speaking world after World War II.
The 25 provinces (landskap) of Sweden, which early in their histories had poor intercommunication, each have a distinct culture. The provinces long ago lost their importance as administrative and political regions, but are still seen as cultural ones, and the population of Sweden identifies with them. Each province has a specific history, each with its own robust nature. Some of them constituted separated parts of Sweden with their own laws. Other regions have been independent, or a part of another country, such as (Denmark or Norway), etc. They have different indigenous dialects of North Germanic, and some have ethnic minorities. For more information about these cultural regions, see the provinces' articles:
Swedish food has traditionally been practical and sustaining. A typical old-fashioned meal consists of boiled potatoes, some kind of meat or fish, a sauce, and some vegetables. Fish has historically been very important. Swedes are among the heaviest coffee drinkers in the world, second only to natives of Finland. Brewed coffee is predominant. For meals, cider, beer, milk, juice, or water is standard. Swedish cider is sweeter and fruitier than foreign ciders, and is enjoyed in almost as large quantities as beer is. However, the consumption of alcohol is less than in many other European countries, owing to the state monopoly on alcoholic beverages, except at restaurants and bars.
The Swedish cinema is one of the most widely known national film industries in the world. The silent period saw the flourish of the gifted visionaries Mauritz Stiller and Victor Sjöström, who brought international attention to Swedish filmmaking and its particular vision of the world.
Ingmar Bergman, regarded as one of the most influential filmmakers of the 20th Century, emerged as a prominent figure in world cinema during the 1950s, with his existential epic The Seventh Seal, which he followed with a host of critically revered psychological dramas. Two of his films in particular, Persona and Cries and Whispers, received unparalleled critical adoration, and put Sweden on the map as one of the most progressive cinematic entities. The revered naturalist Jan Troell, as well as the socially conscious Bo Widerberg, would quickly follow Bergman as the country's foremost visual artists.
Famous actresses and actors include Bibi Andersson, Ingrid Bergman, Greta Garbo, Noomi Rapace, Max von Sydow, Stellan Skarsgård, Alexander Skarsgård, Ingrid Thulin, Lena Olin, Dolph Lundgren, Mikael Persbrandt, Michael Nyqvist and Peter Stormare.
In popular music, the group ABBA became the essence of Swedish music during the 1970s and early 1980s. Later Roxette emerged, mostly performing joyful songs in the late 1980s and early 1990s. This band was also successful in the USA. Europe, Ace of Base and The Cardigans are Swedish pop groups that have been popular internationally.
Indie pop/rock is very big in Sweden. Gothenburg especially has spawned a great number of prominent bands and artists, thanks to labels such as Sincerely Yours, Service, and Luxury. Notable Swedish indie bands and artists include Jens Lekman, The Knife, Love Is All, The Concretes, Broder Daniel, The Tough Alliance, Peter, Bjorn and John, Little Dragon, El Perro del Mar, Maia Hirasawa, Fever Ray, Popsicle, Studio, The Embassy, The Honeydrips, Brainpool, Air France, jj, Joel Alme, Pacific!, etc.
In contrast with its large pop music scene, Sweden also boasts one of the most prolific death metal scenes in the world. Gothenburg is famed in the scene for the "melodic death metal" sound. Many of these bands such as In Flames, Dark Tranquillity, At the Gates, The Haunted, as well as Stockholm's Amon Amarth and Opeth have seen growing commercial success throughout Europe and the United States. Melodic death metal is quite a broad genre with many variations, but with its more obvious roots in traditional death metal, black metal and classic metal such as Iron Maiden. Still, many bands are influenced by genres as broad as Swedish folk music, alternative music, electronica, gothic music, progressive music and even neo-classical music. Sweden is known in the extreme metal community for its famous late 80s-early 90s death metal scene, spawning important bands such as Entombed, Dismember, Grave and Unleashed as well as more obscure, brutal bands as God Macabre, Obscurity, Treblinka (later Tiamat) and Grotesque. Highly influential band Bathory also had a huge impact on the then-to-come black metal scene of Norway and the 1990s, with albums Bathory (1984), The Return (1985), and Under the Sign of the Black Mark (1987), as well as being the first Viking metal band.
Sweden has produced several notable opera singers. In the 1850s, Jenny Lind (a.k.a. the Swedish Nightingale) toured the United States, and the price of admission for her performances was at a rate never before seen. In the 1950s, Jussi Björling was one of few non-Italian opera singers, and he is to this day a household name in opera circles.
Other Swedish bands and artists who seem to manage the international crowd better than others are Dungen, José González, Lykke Li, Mando Diao, The Sounds, The Hives, Neverstore, Sahara Hotnights, Robyn, Tages, The Mascots, Movits!, The Shanes, etc. However, there are a lot of other bands and artists who dominate the national music scene, such as Kent, Håkan Hellström and Lars Winnerbäck.
Swedish literature is vibrant and active. Sweden jointly ranks fifth in the list of countries with most Nobel Prize laureates in literature. Famous Swedish writers and poets are Astrid Lindgren, Selma Lagerlöf, August Strindberg, Hjalmar Söderberg, Tomas Tranströmer, Karin Boye, Stieg Larsson, Henning Mankell, etc.
The oldest preserved buildings in Sweden, from the 11th century, are made of stone. The earliest brick buildings where erected in the late 13th century. The most important building material, from early prehistoric times and well into the 20th century, was wood. The early Swedish stone buildings are Romanesque churches on the countryside. Many of them were built in Scania, and are thus stylistically like Danish churches. This includes the magnificent Lund Cathedral from the 11th century, and the somewhat younger church in Dalby, but also many early Gothic churches built through the influence of the Hanseatic League, such as in Ystad, Malmö and Helsingborg.
Cathedrals in other parts of Sweden were also built as seats of Sweden's bishops. The Skara Cathedral is of bricks from the 14th century, and the Uppsala Cathedral where completed in 1435, 165 years after the building started. In 1230, the foundations of the Linköping Cathedral were laid; the material used was limestone, and the building took some 250 years to finish.
In the 1520s, Sweden emerged from the Middle Ages and once again asserted her independence under King Gustav Vasa. The king initiated a building program of grand mansions and fortresses, both for defense and to represent the new monarchy; much of this was continued by his sons in the latter half of the century. The more imposing ones include the castles of Kalmar, Gripsholm and Vadstena.
In the next two centuries, Sweden was the site of Baroque architecture and later the rococo. Notable projects from that time include the city Karlskrona, which has been declared a World Heritage Site, the Drottningholm Palace, and Stockholm Palace, still the official seat of the monarchy.
Sweden has in recent years taken an interest in the fashion industry, headquartering famous brands like Hennes & Mauritz (operating as H&M), J. Lindeberg (operating as JL), Gina Tricot, Tiger of Sweden, Acne Jeans, and Filippa K within its borders. These companies, however, are made up largely of buyers who import fashionable goods from places throughout Europe and the Americas, continuing the trend of Swedish business toward multinational economic dependency, like many of Sweden's neighbours.
A new breed of smaller Swedish fashion labels like Diana Orving, So Last Season, Odd molly, WESC, Whyred, Hope, Nakkna, Velour, Carin Wester, Ida Sjöstedt, Fifth Avenue Shoe Repair, Cheap Monday, Nudie Jeans, and The Local Firm are emerging and getting recognition.
The oldest remains of Swedish arts are found in the churches: frescos, altar pieces, and baptismal founts. The motifs represent religious beliefs, focused on purgatory, the devil, Jesus Christ, and the Virgin Mary.
In the 19th century, the painter Carl Larsson (1853–1919) shaped the image of the idyllic countryside home with his naïve picturesque illustrations.
- Anderson, P. & Baumberg, B (2006). ALCOHOL IN EUROPE A PUBLIC HEALTH PERSPECTIVE. London: Institute of Alcohol Studies. pp. 78, 266. ISBN 92-79-02241-5.
- Det svenska modeundret - Elle
- Stockholmfashiondays.com - The Local Firm - a/w 2008
- Sweden at geographia.com