Kingdom of Sweden...

...so the official name for the country we all call easily Sweden. It's a country in the north of Europe and is surrounded by Norway, Finland & the baltic sea. Sweden has maritime borders to Denmark, Germany, Poland, Russia, Latvia, Lithuaina & Estonia. The capital of Sweden is Stockholm and Sweden is a member of the European Union since 1995.

Geography

At 449,964 km² (173,720 square miles), Sweden is the 55th largest country in the world. It is the 5th largest in Europe, and the largest in Northern Europe. The country is slightly larger than the US state of California, with a population in 2006 of 9.1 million people.

Sweden has three main regions. Norrland, covering about three-fifths of the country, is mountainous and has vast forests and large ore deposits. Svealand has undulating glacial ridges and contains most of the country's 90,000 lakes. Götaland comprises the stony Smäland highlands and the rich Skäne plains. About 15% of Sweden lies north of the Artic Circle. Southern Sweden is predominantly agricultural, with increasing forest coverage northward. The highest population density is in the Öresund region in southern Sweden, and in the valley of lake Mälaren in central Sweden. Gotland and Öland are Sweden's largest islands; Vänern and Vättern are Sweden's largest lakes.

Sweden enjoys a mostly temperate climate despite its northern latitude, mainly because of the Gulf Stream. In the south of Sweden, leaf-bearing trees are prolific, further north pines, spruces and in the very north hardy birches dominate the landscape. In the mountains of northern Sweden a sub-Arctic climate predominates. North of the Artic Circle, the sun never sets for part of each summer, and in the winter, night is similarly unending.

The biggest cities in Sweden are Stockholm, Gothenburg & Malmö.

Language

The primary language of Sweden is Swedish, a North Germantic Languages, related and very similar to Danish and Norwegian, but differing in pronunciation and orthography. Norwegians have little difficulty understanding Swedish and Danes can also understand it, with a bit more difficulty than the Norwegians. The area around Malmö (across from Copenhagen) has the most mutual intelligibility. The dominant language has always been Swedish, though this designation was never made official. However, with the recognition of five minority languages of Sweden (Finnish, Meänkieli, Sami, Romani and Yiddish) on April 1st, 2000, the issue of whether Swedish should be declared the official language was raised. On December 7th, 2005, the parliament voted, but with a count of 147 to 145 and certain voting errors the proposal failed.

A majority of Swedes, especially those born after World War II, understand and speak English thanks to trade links, the popularity of overseas travel, a strong Anglo-American influence and the tradition of subtitling rather than dubbing foreign television shows and films. English became a compulsory subject for secondary school students studying natural sciences as early as 1849, and has been a compulsory subject for all Swedish students since the late 1940s. Depending on the local school authorities, English is currently a compulsory subject between first grade. Some Danish and Norwegian is at times also taught as part of the Swedish course for native speakers to emphasize differences and similarities between the languages. and ninth grade, with all students continuing in secondary school studying English for at least another year. Most students also learn one and sometimes two additional languages, the most popular being Spanish, German, French and Italian

Education

As part of its social welfare system, Sweden provides an extensive childcare system that guarantees a place for all young children from 1-5 years old in a public day-care facility (förskola or dagis). Between ages 6-16, children attend compulsory comprehensive school, divided in three stages. After completing the ninth grade, 90% continue with a three-year upper secondary school (gymnasium) leading sometimes to a vocational diploma and always to qualifications for further studies at a univeristy or college (högskola). Both upper secondary school and university studies are financed by taxes. Some Swedes go straight to work after secondary school.

Music

Sweden shares the tradition of Nordic folk dance music with its neighbouring countries, including polka, schottische, waltz, polska and mazurka. The accordion, clarinet, fiddle and ncyckelharpa are among the most common Swedish folk instruments. This instrumental genre is the biggest one in Swedish traditional music. In the 1960s, Swedish youth sparked a roots revival in Swedish folk culture. Many joined Srelmannsgaradio and TV. They focused on instrumental polska music, with vocals and influences from other traditional genres becoming more prominent since the 1990s. (folk musicians' clubs) and performed on mainstream.

Swedish music has also included more modern and pop influences. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Scandinavian deatch metal bands became very popular with the international heavy metal community. Some of the greatest innovators in the entire metal scene hail from Sweden. Swedish pop bands like ABBA, Roxette, Army of Lovers, Ace of Base, A*Teens, E-Type, David & the Citizen and The Cardigans have had international success. A number of bands with less emphasis on pop music have come out of the country in recent years, including The Hives, Refused, Millencolin, The (International) Noise Conspiracy, Sahara Hotnights, The Hellacopters, Backyard Babies, Mando Diao, The Soundtrack of our Lives, The Ark and Kent.

There are also many classic Swedish musicians, including Carl Mikael Bellmann, Evert Taube and Povel Ramel (Povel Ramel has composed and sung in a variety of musical styles, from jazz to rap, and he is also often considered both a classical and pop-singer).

Sweden has been called the third biggest exporter of music in the world, after the US and the UK. Ironically, ABBA was a much bigger success abroad than in Sweden. Another Swedish artist, DeDe, was so successful in Japan in the late 1990s that she inspired a collectible doll. Sweden have also historically dominated the Scandinavian music scene, with Denmark Norway listening to music in Swedish rather than the other way around.

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