Monday, June 06, 2005

June 6 and Sweden

Today is the National Day of Sweden - and for the first time ever it's also a national holiday. A slight rearrangements of holidays have made it possible also for Sweden to have its National Day as a holiday.

I happen to think that this is a good idea. I would however also be in favour of making May 9 as the Day of Europe some sort of holiday.

The only problem is that we have to work as well. Holidays are good for happiness, but not necessarily for the GDP. And it's out of the GDP that most things at the end of the day are paid.

Why June 6?

Well, it was on June 6 in 1523 that Gustav Vasa was crowned as King of Sweden, thus really starting the history of the modern Swedish state.

Prior to that there had been the Union of Kalmar which had brought Norway, Denmark and Sweden together in a relationship that at the end of the day did not work out. Gustav Vasa was the young noblemen that led the peasants of Sweden in a rebellion to throw out the so called foreign masters, mainly the Danes. That he did it with great subsidies from Germany wasn't that much part of the public story at the time.

That was the first June 6.

The second was in 1809 as a new constitution was enacted, which was going to last until 1974, when on June 6 as well another one was adopted.

When Sweden broke away from the loose Nordic union, it broke away as a unified country of what is today Sweden and Finland. But in 1809, as a result of another failed war with Russia, what is today Finland was separated from what is today Sweden and come under the authority of the Tsar of Russia in St Petersburg.

In the meantime, Denmark had continued to rule Norway, but also this come to its end as a result of the turmoils of the Napoleonic wars, and Sweden and Norway entered a very loose union in 1814. This union, as I have written about earlier, effectively was terminated by the Storting/Parliament of Norway on June 7 1904.

Thus, we see the gradual emergence of the present pattern of national states in Northern Europe after a past that was far more in common. Finland, of course, gained its indepence as a result of the collapse of Tsarist Russia and the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917.

So, there we are.

In a thought-provoking small piece in Dagens Nyheter today, its political editor Niklas Ekdal concludes by saying that if the European Union did not exist today, we would clearly have to invent it very fast, while if the present Nordic national states didn't, it not a sure thing that they would have to be invented.

Perhaps we would live happily with our more regional identities within a firmer and larger European framework. Perhaps.

But we are were we are, and today we celebrate the National Day of Sweden.

It's not necessarily the greatest thing of the day in Moscow - were I spend the day - but I hope it is at home in Sweden.