Sovereign: King Carl XVI Gustaf (1973)
Prime Minister: Stefan Löfven (2014)
Land area: 158,927 sq mi (411,621 sq km); total area: 173,731 sq mi (449,964 sq km)
Population (2014 est.): 9,723,809 (growth rate: 0.79%); birth rate: 11.92/1000; infant mortality rate: 2.6/1000; life expectancy: 81.89; density per sq mi: 55.6
Capital and largest city (2014 est.): Stockholm, 1.372 million
Other large cities (2014 est.): Göteborg, 536,790; Malmö, 303,873
Monetary unit: Krona
Sweden, which occupies the eastern part of the Scandinavian Peninsula, is the fourth-largest country in Europe and is one-tenth larger than California. The country slopes eastward and southward from the Kjólen Mountains along the Norwegian border, where the peak elevation is Kebnekaise at 6,965 ft (2,123 m) in Lapland. In the north are mountains and many lakes. To the south and east are central lowlands and south of them are fertile areas of forest, valley, and plain. Along Sweden's rocky coast, chopped up by bays and inlets, are many islands, the largest of which are Gotland and Öland.
The earliest historical mention of Sweden is found in Tacitus's Germania, where reference is made to the powerful king and strong fleet of the Sviones. In the 11th century, Olaf Sköttkonung became the first Swedish king to be baptized as a Christian. Around 1400, an attempt was made to unite Sweden, Norway, and Denmark into one kingdom, but this led to bitter strife between the Danes and the Swedes. In 1520, the Danish king Christian II conquered Sweden and in the “Stockholm Bloodbath” put leading Swedish personages to death. Gustavus Vasa (1523–1560) broke away from Denmark and fashioned the modern Swedish state. He also confiscated property from the Roman Catholic Church in Sweden to pay Sweden's war debts. The king justified his actions on the basis of Martin Luther's doctrines, which were being accepted nationwide with royal encouragement. The Lutheran Swedish church was eventually adopted as the state church.
Sweden played a leading role in the second phase (1630–1635) of the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648). By the Treaty of Westphalia (1648), Sweden obtained western Pomerania and some neighboring territory on the Baltic. In 1700, a coalition of Russia, Poland, and Denmark united against Sweden and by the Peace of Nystad (1721) forced it to relinquish Livonia, Ingria, Estonia, and parts of Finland. Sweden emerged from the Napoleonic Wars with the acquisition of Norway from Denmark and with a new royal dynasty stemming from Marshal Jean Bernadotte of France, who became King Charles XIV (1818–1844). The artificial union between Sweden and Norway led to an uneasy relationship, and the union was finally dissolved in 1905. Sweden maintained a position of neutrality in both world wars.