The Viking Museum in Foteviken and the battle in 1134

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If you take buss number 100 from the Central Station in Malmoe and take a 35 minute trip south to just north of Höllviken in Vellinge Municipality and the Falsterbo Peninsula in the south-west corner of Skåne/Scania you come to a place called Foteviken. Since 2001 there’s a Viking Museum with a reconstructed small town. The house replicas show us what the houses here looked like in the Viking Era, ca 870 – 1066 and the early High Middle Ages, ca 1060 – 1200 A.D. Here in Höllviken and Foteviken/Foot Bay there was a Viking settlement in those days. In June 1134 there was also a fierce battle fought here. I’ll come to that later.  If you’re interested in visiting the world’s only existing entire Viking city replica you should go to Foteviken out-door Viking Museum in the summer-time. This week and week-end there was a Viking Market with fairs, merchants, villagers and warriors. You find more information on http://www.fotevikenmuseum.se. Telephone +4640-330 807 and +4640-330800. E-mail: museum@foteviken.se and info@foteviken.se. The address is Museivägen 24, 236 91 Höllviken, Sweden. When you get off the bus at Hallörsvägen you walk back a little bit and follow the signs and a path for about five minutes to the museum. There’s also a parking space for cars in the fields just outside the museum area. The price entry is 120 Swedish Kronor in cash, no cards are accepted. I visited Foteviken both yesterday and today. Yesterday on my own and today with some friends of mine.

The Village Community of Foteviken was founded in the autumn of 2001 and in 2008 there were 23 complete houses built on the site. Each summer it’s populated by voluntairies who love enacting Viking and Middle Age life on occassion. However the Vikings are not only Swedes, but come from many different places. When you walk around the Viking city you meet and see Vikings from Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Germany, Poland, Great Britain, India, Thailand, Japan etc. There were men and women, children, families, youngsters, middle-aged and elderly people – a marvellous mixture. In a fair field with merchant tents outside the city I yesterday talked to among others a Danish woman called Tina and her Swedish boyfriend Markus who lives in Rosengård, Malmoe. Tina is Danish, but her mother is Jewish and she also has Persian influence in her family background. Another interesting man was the swarthy Viking Noel from London who has enacted Viking warrior for seven years, among other places here. Noel though has his roots in Sri Lanka. There are cemicircular defenceworks of earth and wood which enclose the 23 houses, fields and sacred places inside. When one enters the little city through the South Gate you have a food bar and Thingshöll Lane to the right which leads to Thinghöll. A “thing” was a quarterly district-court session where chieftains, wise men and other people in the region used to gather for discussions and solving conflicts. To the left inside the gates you see the waters of Öresund and Foot Bay. There’s a simple cottage belonging to an archer near the water, a smoke house, a tannery and a cottage for a rather wealthy minor chieftain. A bit up to the right there are e.g. magnificent houses belonging to Sven the Juror and Peter the Scribe. On the far side of the main street you see a wooden tower on a small hill from which you survey the surroundings in all directions. Inside one of the houses near the water I met a Norwegian Viking who’s real name is Georg Olafr Reydarson, but here called Georg Viking. He may be reached at georg.viking@online.no and facebook.com/georgviking. He also told me about another Viking Market in Vestlandet, western Norway, 200 kilometres from the coast and 140 kilometres from the city of Bergen. That site is called Gudvangen. Georg was an elderly man with a big beard, white tunic, yellow trousers and a fur hat. Inside the house he sat down in the high seat and placed his sword left of it. Also other people were in that house, both men and women, mainly from Norway.

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Different things are arranged at the out-door museum. There are games and pedagogic shows for the children, guided tours by knowledgeable archeologists, historians and other skilled people. You may enter the tower and watch the view from the top and see how guards may have felt when they scrutinized the area in search of dangers and other things. This is very near the area I mentioned in my text “What’s in a name?”. The area in ancient times referred to as The Dangerous Island/Dangerous Peninsula because of the treacherous waters outside the south-west tip of what’s now called Skåne. You may read more about this in that text. You can go into the houses and watch what life may have looked like 1000 years ago, talk to the dressed-up inhabitants,  the craftsmen and merchants. Viking warriors enacted battles and described the usage of the armoury from those days, and all in a very pedagogic and clear way. To the left after the entry to the entire museum complex there’s a building where you might see real artefacts found from that era, see a film about the village, Viking life and buy postcards if you like.

In the beginning I mentioned the battle of Foteviken on June 4th 1134. What happened then and why? Denmark in these days had a down-period after their glorious rule under Canute the Great, who also was king of England 100 years earlier. After him followed nine kings in Denmark all belonging to the dynasty of Thrugotsen. In 1131 Canute the Great’s grandson Niels ruled Denmark. He had a son called Magnus who also was his crown-prince. The problem was that Niels’ predecessor was another kinsman called Erik Ejegod who also had a son named Erik. That Erik was Niels’ paternal nephew. Erik thought that since his father Erik Ejegod had ruled the country he was the lawful heir of the throne, so he had begun to oppose and fight the now ruling king Niels. Erik Eriksson settled down in Skåne/Scania, made the province independant of Denmark and began to rule Skåne as a local king. That same year in 1131 prince Magnus got married in Roskilde on Zeeland/Själland, and encouraged by the Swedish queen Ulfhild began a quarrel with one of the guests, Knud Lavard, brother of Erik Eriksson of Skåne. Knud Lavard was an influential man who guarded the southern region of Denmark, but also had become a regional king in Sönderjylland, and vasall to his father-in-law, the German emperor Lothar. Two weeks after the quarrel Magnus Nielsön killed Knud Lavard by cleaving his head in twain with his sword and his fellow-conspirators thrusting their spears into the dying Knud. That assasination led to civil war in Denmark. The old archbishop Asker since 1089 and who had given the order of building Lund Cathedral in south-west Skåne was first quite cold and indifferent for the fight between the kings. But something happened that changed that. The early Danish church belonged originally to the archbishopric of Hamburg-Bremen in northern Germany, but had now made itself more independent. In these days there was a Pope in Rome and also an opposing Pope named Innocentius in Germany. Danish king Niels became friends with the German Emperor and the opposing Pope Innocentius. Then suddenly archbishop Asker in Lund got a letter from Innocentius which said that he might have the right to continue calling himself archbishop, but that his successors could “only” be called bishops and be subordinate to Bremen. This vexed Asker and he sent a political writ the next day to Innocentius where he from now on declared his allegiance to the Pope in Rome. King Niels of Denmark was a true friend of his German allies and invited many to Denmark. Lots of Danes hated this and killed many Germans, in particularly in Roskilde, which then was the Danish Capital City. Because of his favours for the Germans king Niels lost many Danish allies and trust among the native locals.

Scanian king Erik Eriksson and archbishop Asker prepared themselves for war. Fortresses and defence-walls were built, mercenaries from Germany were hired to fight, peasant soldiers were rallied from Skåne, Halland and Blekinge and Erik also instructed his life-guard soldiers, the so called housecarls. On the opposite side of Öresund/The Strait between the Peninsulas king Niels prepared a double attack on Skåne: one on Lund and also an invasion in the south-west corner. On June 1st 1134 king Niels and his Danish troups attacked Lund, but failed. They had to retreat and go back to Själland/Zeeland and prepare a new attack with their extra forces, and the Royal fleet of more modern “koggs”, instead of the older Viking longboats. On June 4th 1134 the fleet was seen on Öresund, but the scouts of king Erik in Höllviken and Foteviken had warned the Scanian king. When king Niels and his armies of soldiers from Zeeland/Själland, Jutland/Jylland and some other Danish islands came ashore in Foteviken they only had reached a slight bit on the way to Vellinge before king Erik attacked. In the front was king Erik Eriksson, heavily armed German cavalry mercenaries, his own fierce Scanian housecarls, many local men on horseback and an immense peasant infantery. King Erik’s cavalry numbered ca 400 men. On the Danish side also several bishops participated: Peder of Roskilde, Tore of Ribe and Kettil of Vendsyssel. Prince Magnus was a fierce fighter, but that didn’t help. Because of the heavy Scanian attack the Danes were pressed back to the ships in Foteviken and lined up in the shoaling water on the shelving beach. Since king Erik’s army was so ruthless in its attacks the Danes had nowhere to go but further out in the water. The Scanians had a heatherclad heath and a forest behind them,  with more troups waiting on the ouskirts of the woods, and therefore got the upper-hand. The Danish soldiers climbed back onto their ships, but they became so densely crowded in the chaotic panic that those aboard began chopping off the hands of those soldiers in the water who tried to climb aboard. This from hindering the ships from capsizing and sink. Foteviken and the shore was filled with dead and dying bodies, and the water turned red from all the blood. Men screaming from agony of death and fear, men drowning, being pushed or pulled under the water, throats cut and guts spilled out in a ghastly mess of human body parts. Prince Magnus fought like a berserker, but died alongside bishop Peder from Roskilde, all the bishops save one from Jutland, and the Swedish bishop Henrik. Archbishop Asker in Lund didn’t fight though because of his old age. We don’t know for sure how many was killed that day, but the estimation of at least 3000 has been made.

After the battle of Foteviken king Niels and the surviving men sailed back to Zeeland. He didn’t dare though going back to Roskilde because of an on-going uprising against him, so he went to Nästved in the southern part of Zeeland. From there the king carried on to Hedeby on southern Jutland. But the local rulers led by Knutsgillet, (friends and kinsmen of Knud Lavard), refused to let the king in and met him outside the city with drawn swords. Suddenly the old king Niels was hit by an arrow which went straight through his neck. The 70-year-old king fell dead to the ground.

Now Erik Eriksson, king of Skåne/Scania, also became king of the entire Denmark. He now took the epithet Erik Emune, which means Eric the Eternally Remembered. During the fight against the now dead king Niels two rivalling dynasties, the Hvide/White Dynasty on Zeeland and the Svarte/Black Dynasty in Skåne for once had fought together. Now their rivalry began again. After having become king of all Denmark Erik Emune began favouring the Hvide Dynasty on Själland/Zeeland, instead of the Svarte Dynasty in Skåne. Erik Emune also became more and more cruel and paranoid. He had the two sons of his own halfbrother Harald Kesha drowned in Lake Slien, Slesvig by tying them to a mill-wheel and lower the boys beneath the water. Later the king’s brother and his family was caught in an ambush at their estate near Vejle where Erik Emune had Harald decapitated. Then he took Harald’s eight sons to Skåne and repeated the ghastly procedure. One of his brother’s sons managed though to escape, and became a king himself some years later. Erik Emune led a successfull crusade to the island of Rügen in northern Germany in 1135, an unsuccessfull war in southern Norway in 1136, but then returned to Lund which he had made Capital of Denmark under his rule. Despite this, since he became king of all Denmark Erik Emune became increasingly spiteful towards the Scanians and more accepting to the Zeelanders. After the death of archbishop Asker in Lund Erik Emune refused to accept his successor Eskil Christiernsön. As leader of his housecarls Erik Emune had a man of the Scanian Svarte Dynasty, called Plog Svarteskåning. On September 18th 1137 king Erik Emune held a quarterly district-court-session, (a “domarting” in Swedish) on his Royal estate in Lund or Ribe. When the king had given his arbitrations Plog Svarteskåning said: “I want to leave my service, My Lord, and now demand my payment”. The king turned to the treasurer and said: “Give him the silver for a year. That will make him satisfied.” The stern housecarl counted his silver pieces and raised his hand to speak. Then Plog Svarteskåning looked at the king who was leaning on his spear, raised his own lance and run it through the chest of Erik Emune who fell dead to the floor. Then the houscarl said: “King Erik has fallen. We chose the wrong king, Scanians – he fell for his foul deeds”. Then Plog Svarteskåning walked out without being attacked.

All wars are ugly, and lead to suffering and human intrigues. The story about the battle of Foteviken, the events leading up to it and what happened in the years following the battle is only one of a countless number of similar stories from the local and global history. What troubles me is the human tendency for cruelty as well as demeaning comments and ideas of other groups and individuals. It pleased me to see the mix of people from various corners of Sweden and the world at Foteviken Museum this weekend. I like both history and current affairs, and have no problems with my own local and national pride, but wish to see more understanding and positive co-operations and love between people, irrespective of background. We are all human beings walking this earth. Venerating the local history, maybe re-enacting it and presenting it for people in all ages and from various parts of our globe might be a very good thing, done with moderation and open-mindedness. Then it can be a good reminder of who we are and what we come from. The important thing though is to put it all in perspective and balance that pride with general inter-human understanding and affections. Visit the museum and learn more. Enlighten yourself and grow in awareness, self-reliance, pride and positive human interaction.

Anders Moberg, June 30th 2013

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Dancing as a lifestyle

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Yessica Andersson in the photo above is a dancer and choreographer. I met her the first time last summer when she one day came to the office where I was working. A little while ago she invited me to a dance competition that was held yesterday evening at the Amphi theatre in Pildammsparken/The Willow Pond Park in southern Malmoe. Last Saturday I arranged an interview with Yessica at a café one week before the competition, and this text will be about her career so far and about the fantastic dance performances yesterday.  Yessica has a Swedish father and a Polish mother. She grew up here in Malmoe and began dancing at the age of six. Until the age of 15 she combined the marshall arts of judo with dancing. Her mother wanted Yessica to train mainly classical ballet, but Yessica who was something of a Tom boy, rather tough and with a will of her own felt that the hip hop field, street dancing was more her style. She then used to train judo four times a week and dancing once a week. At the age of 14 or 15 dancing became her main thing. Her first dance crew was called Taste of Skills. They used to dance in street corners with tapes in the background, but very soon Yessica took the step to become a more and more professional dancer. In her early teens she began at Rydberg’s Dance Academy here in Malmoe and she also began leading youth groups of her own.

The next group she was training had the name Steady Fuzz. They consisted of six dancers who were between 14 and 30 years old. They had shows and became increasingly better. In 2009 Yessica went at the age of 17 for three days to Thessaloniki, Greece to work as an assistant for a more advanced dancer at the Asters International Dance Studio. After her graduation from Upper Secondary School she went to New York for a month to learn more dancing. This young woman has continued to learn more, and get material and training from international dance professionals. Back home in Malmoe at Rydberg’s Dance Academy Yessica continued to drill her dance  pupils. They have to train hard and Yessica is tough and demanding, but also very dedicated and affectionate.

Yessica Andersson is teaching street dance – new school. In the 1970’s and 1980’s break dance was called street dance. Breaking belongs to the four elements of hip hop: rap, dj-ing, grafitti and breaking. The other hip hop-styles are referred to with the collective phrase “hip hop-foundations” containing locking, popping, house, waacking and voguing (after Madonna’s video “Vogue”),  which is a combination of disco, house and hip hop. In the late 1990’s and early 21st century new styles were invented in Los Angeles, Hollywood – The dance world’s “Mecca” . The different best dancers go there to pick up inspiration and moves, but the new school is more free than the old one. Each dancer and each dance teacher in the new school has more freedome to invent and develop his or her own style. Yessica is teaching new school.

Yessica Andersson is not only teaching groups at Rydberg’s Dance Academy, but is an appreciated project leader, dance master and choreographer in several places here in Skåne. In 2006 she was choreographer of and background dancer in the video “Blågula Färger” with Advance Patrol, and in 2012 she made the moves to the artists in Dirty Discofreak and their video “Rock the sexy”. She’s also been working for and with artists like Arash and Haddaway. When I asked Yessica if she’s planning her moves and her choreography she just laughed, tapped a yellow fingernail on her temple and said: “No. It’s all in here”. I laughed too and said that I recognize the feeling as one creative soul to another, even though I’m no dancer. She gets her inspiration when she’s out walking, from something she sees and events happening in society. In the dance room hall she needs the dancers present, and she simply “thinks out” how they should be placed and giving them suggestions of how to move and co-ordinate their dancing. Yessica is having dance classes at schools in Malmoe, Eslöv and Landskrona. Since 2013 she’s hired in the summers by Landskronafestivalen as co-ordinator of dance events, also this year. Creandia AB who runs the festival in Landskrona had googled and found out that it was Yessica who had started Run 040 and wanted something similar.

Yessica’s latest group formed at Rydbergs Dance Academy in 2011 is called Cupcake Crew. Ten girls have been chosen via auditions and formed a good team. They train hard and have different skills where they have shaped a fine group feeling. Cupcake Crew performed also yesterday, and in one of the pictures below you see Yessica dancing in a blue cap. They train three times a week and also have to train back home to perfect their performances. In 2013 Cupcake Crew won the Streetstar Dance School Challenge in Stockholm. They are trained in classical ballet, jazz and hip hop. New auditions will be held for Cupcake Crew, but Yessica also intends to form a group for kids in the age 9 -12 called Cookie Cutters. As a dancer Yessica has been performing at the Malmoe and Landskrona festivals respectivally, during the Eurovision Song Contest events 2013, at student graduation proms and opening of malls and bigger events, NRJ in the park, and also for the Royal family. In September 2012 she started Yessick Productions, but her web page http://www.yessica.se is for the moment totally black because it’s being upgraded. Her home page will be re-opened though in August or September. She might be reached at info@yessica.se. This summer of 2013 Yessica will be dancing in the production “The Emperors” by the French choreographer and film director Romain Rios. For the dance battle yesterday evening Yessica was the co-ordinator and project leader together with RGRA (The Voice and Face of the Street) and Studieförbundet Vuxenskolan/The Study Association the Adult School.

The hip hop culture and the street dance movement was originally in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s a way of coping with social injustices, racism and the violence in society. Instead of gangs fighting each other with guns, dance battles were arranged with groups and individuals competing with each other. The event yesterday in southern Malmoe, called Run 040, held in Pildammsparken for the third year in a row was a great example of the best entertainment imaginable in that spirit. The audience was mixed with people in all ages: from lots of small kids to elderly people, even though the majority probably were between 20 and 45. There was also a wonderful ethnic mix and the crews which performed were in absolute top class. These people really knew how to dance and combine that with athletics, co-ordination and rhythm. Another wonderful thing was the loving and accepting atmosphere, also between the competing crews. They simply had great fun and the attitude was filled with high-quality performance and acceptance for each other’s skills. The best thing imaginable.

Seven crews competed, from Malmoe, Lund, Gothenburg, Stockholm, Örebro and Copenhagen. Each crew danced for three minutes combining funk, house and hip hop. Then they were taken to semifinal and battled each other two crews at a time for a minute. The winners would get the title “All Style Crew 2013” and get a reward of 10 000 Kronor. The judges were the professional dancers Francis “Switch” Brako, Johanna “Skywalker” Helewa Chrona and Melinda “Messimel” Jacobsson.  DJ’s were Rob Love from Sweden and KCL from Denmark. Presenting the numbers was no less than Behrang Miri who was excelling in his role. His daughter Donya was playing a little with her father and followed him around a bit, and Behrang Miri often interviewed the small kids infront of the stage. Dance battles in street dance is often a “guys’ thing”, but yesterday it was more gender mixed. I got the feeling that the mix of men and women on stage was ca 50/50. Most competitors were between 15 and 30, but also some small kids and a father and his two sons in one of the crews. All the same it developed into ladies’ night. The winning crew was a team of four young women from Stockholm called Swedish Family. It’s them you see below, first from their three-minute performance and then from the battle at the end. Between the battles there were performances by the Malmoe groups Cupcake Crew led by Yessica Andersson and some breakdancing master guys called De La Kingz.

If a similar event will be held next year, don’t hesitate to see it.

Anders Moberg, June 29th 2013

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Sweden’s Super-Power Era 1611 – 1718

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Between the years 1611 and 1718 Sweden grew and maintained for a while a position as a European Super-Power. In Swedish history- and school books it’s referred to as “Stormaktstiden”/The Super-Power Era. Sweden back then was rather unlike Sweden today in mentality and ambitions. It was much rougher, more focused on wars and expansion, and the civilians, peasants and ordinary workers had to suffer the most. All the same an embryo of Sweden today was shaped during those years. Cities were founded, the Church lists of people’s births, weddings, deaths etc shaped and systematized. A system that still exists. The first Swedish newspaper was founded, the development of bureaucracy and the small beginning of what later would become the more democratic Sweden.

In 1594 the crown-prince Gustav Adolf was born as son of king Carl IX. Gustav Adolf was the grandson of Gustav Eriksson Vasa who had made Sweden into an inherited kingdom in 1523. When Gustav Vasa’s third son Carl IX died in 1611 the young prince became the new king of Sweden at the age of 17. The year after that the statesman Axel Oxenstierna became Chancellor of the realm and would have an important role on Swedish policies until his death in 1654. The young king Gustav II Adolf of Sweden was ambitious, and had inherited wars against Poland and Denmark from his father. Sweden fought Denmark in the so called Kalmar War which ended with a peace treaty signed in Knäred, south-east Halland on January 20th 1613. It was a tough treaty where both parties had to give up and gain areas. Sweden was also obliged to pay Denmark 1 million Riksdaler in six years time. In 1614 the king started a great rearrangement of the judicial system and was also between 1613 and 1615 deeply in love with the young aristocratic beauty Ebba Brahe. The preserved love-letters between them show strong affections, but the surrounding court and the Royal family forbade this love and instead the general Jakob De la Gardie courted and married her. King Gustav II Adolf instead married Maria Eleonora of Brandenburg in 1620. On February 17th 1617 Sweden also signed a peace treaty with Russia at Stolbova near Lake Ladoga, surveyed by diplomats from the Netherlands and England. In that treaty Sweden got Ingermanland and Kexholm County, in Russian called Priozersk. This led to that Sweden who already had Finland as part of Sweden could control the Gulf of Finland.

In 1618 the 30-year war broke out in Europe after that some high officials and their secretaries were thrown out of a window in Prague. For the moment Sweden stayed out of that war, but that would change a few years later. In these days Denmark had a larger fleet than Sweden, but many war-ships were built in Sweden to change the balance of power. One famous incident though occured which later has given us an important remnant of the ship-building techniques from those days. In 1625 king Gustav II Adolf gave the order to build a ship of the line called Vasa. It was big and over-dimensioned. Ship builder Henrik Hybertsson had a tough job, and despite the fact that Admiral Henrik Clas Henning realised that the dimensions were wrong the ship sailed away to participate in the war on August 10th 1628. Only after a little while the ship lost its balance and sank. In the 20th century the wreck was found by archeologist Anders Franzén and it was taken up from the water on April 24th 1961. It might now be seen at the Vasa Museum in Stockholm. In 1629 a truce was signed between Sweden and Poland after war between the two countries since 1625.

The Swedish king though was worried that Denmark and Germany would grow too much in power and Sweden threw itself into the 30-year war in 1630. The Swedish king was successful at first and got the epithet “The Scandinavian Lion”. The Swedish army was efficient, but many soldiers died from diseases, wounds, bad and harsh weather, accidents and negligence. Many young peasants and farm-hands were enrolled by force or persuasion, as well as others. Many farms in Sweden were emptied on young men, and the women and older men had to take care of everything. The taxes to finance the wars also created agony for many ordinary people and the days were tough indeed. Compare this with today’s war-zones around the world. It’s very much the same today, even if our armies and weapons have become even more devastatingly lethal. In Germany the Swedish army created havoc and the locals scared the children with stories of the brutal and dangerous Swedes. One successful battle from a Swedish point of view was the battle of Breitenfeld near Leipzig on September 7th 1631. Gustav II Adolf defeated the German general Tilly. Even if the 30-year war was described as a war between Roman Catholics against Lutheran Protestants that is an oversimplification. France which is Catholic hated the also Catholic German Empire and sided with the Swedes. With Sweden fought Scots, Frenchmen and Croats against the German Emperial forces. However, on November 6th 1632 Gustav II Adolf was killed in the fog during the battle of Lützen also near Leipzig. His body was later found shot and stabbed to death, and sent back to Sweden together with his dead horse. The king’s clothes and stuffed horse might now be seen on the museum Royal Armouries at the Stockholm Castle. The queen Ulrika Eleonora grieved his death for a long time and kept his heart in a small box while the young princess Christina only could watch her mother. Christina was then pronounced queen but it would take until 1644 before she actually would reign.

In 1634 Sweden got a new form of government which gave most of the power to the richest aristocracy. Castles, finer positions, estates, power over the people. In 1635 a new modern road system was begun and the year after the alliance with France grew. Since 1610 Sweden also had invited skilled craftsmen from Belgium and northern France, so called Walloons. Many of them settled in Finspång and Norrköping, many went back home, but ca 900 stayed. The city of Gothenburg/Göteborg was founded already in 1604, was burned in the Kalmar War in 1611, but rebuilt 1619-1621. The city grew in importance during the 17th century, mainly inhabited by a mix of Dutchmen, Germans and Swedes.

In 1638 the Swedish colony New Sweden/Nya Sverige was founded in North America in the states of Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland. Land was bought by the Lepane Indians by Nya Sverigekompaniet/The New Sweden Company. That colony flourished with good relations to the native Indians 1638-1655 until the Dutch took over. Axel Oxenstierna had started the negotiations already in 1635 when he met some Dutch merchants who told him of the North American colonies. Back home in Europe general Johan Banér died and was replaced by Lennart Torstensson. In 1644 Queen Christina was crowned and started a reign with focus on culture and trade. Among others she invited the philosopher René Descartes to Sweden, and the cultural life began to flourish. Something less flattering for Sweden is our participation in the West-African slave trade for a few years. Sweden had slave forts in Ghana between 1648 and 1660 and competed in the foul slave trade with Danes, Portuguese, Dutchmen and Englishmen. The general idea and the colonial mentality was no doubt racist, in Sweden as in many other countries. Tragic but true. In 1643 General Lennart Torstensson invaded and sacked Skåne: burning, violating and killing the local population. This is called the Torstensson-war. At the same time queen Christina continued to discuss culture and assembled many intellectuals and books.

After the sea-battle at Femern which Denmark lost a peace-treaty between Sweden and Denmark was signed at Brömsebro in Blekinge on October 13th 1645. Sweden then recieved the island of Gotland, the counties Jämtland and Härjedalen near Norway, the island of Ösel off the Estonian coast and the province of Blekinge for 30 years. That same year Sweden got its first newspaper filled mainly with information about the wars and propaganda. It was called Ordinari Post Tijdender/Original Post News. The war in Germany was though drawing to a close and ended in 1648 with the Westfal Peace. Was this the end on a period of war? Absolutely not. The wars would go on for many more years. In 1654 Queen Christina decided to become a Roman Catholic, abdicated and moved to Rome. She took many books and scriptures with her and saved them for the coming generations, since the Royal Castle in Stockholm, called Tre Kronor/Three Crowns would later burn in 1697. In 1654 Axel Oxenstierna died and Christina’s cousin Carl X Gustav became the new king. It’s him we see on his horse as a statue on the Major Square here in Malmoe.

In 1655 the new crown-prince Carl was born while his father the king looked with eager eyes on Denmark and especially East Denmark: Scania, Halland and Blekinge. When the Swedish armies were in Germany the king decided to invade Denmark in the winter of 1657-1658. This was during the little ice age in Europe and the winters were very cold. Carl X Gustav decided to take his troups over the ices Lille Bält and Store Bält from Jutland to Zeeland and put a siege on Copenhagen. It was dangerous and parts of the Swedish troups drowned. In the Swedish national propaganda the event was then portrayed as very neat and without problems, while reality was much more harsh. The Swedish king fought the Danes and a new treaty was signed in Roskilde Cathedral in 1658. Sweden then got what until then had been East Denmark, the Scanian provinces Skåne, Halland and Blekinge. Now Sweden was as biggest, and the map above shows where the borders were. I have made Sweden’s areas dark yellow on that map. Apart from what’s Sweden now, the central areas of Norway in the west, then Finland which had been part of Sweden since the mid 1200’s and would remain so until 1810. Moreover parts of western Russia, what’s now Estonia and most of Latvia, as well as areas in northern Germany around Rostock, Lübeck and Bremen. Only a few months after the peace Carl X Gustav wanted to invade the rest of Denmark and Norway to make entire northern Europe, or at least the Scandinavian countries, into a big Swedish Empire. He started making plans for such invasions.

In 1660 Karl X Gustav died however, and was succeeded by his son Carl XI, who then was a kid. Until he came of age the government were in the hands of his custodians. Carl XI would grow up to become another warrior king and was educated both in theology, statemanship and warfare. In 1661 a man called Erik Dahlberg was permitted to publish the book “Suecia antiqua et hodierna”/Sweden in antiquity and present day.  It was a massive book with pictures describing the history and invented history of the country to suit the mentality of a super-power. In 1675 the Scanian War broke out when king Fredrik II of Denmark tried to take Skåne/Scania back. At the battle north of Lund on December 4th 1676 the two armies met and it became one of the bloodiest in modern Scandinavian history. The 8 000 Swedes met 13 000 Danes and 9000 were killed. In these days the uniforms were not yet distinct and it was difficult to tell friend from foe. At one point Carl XI happened to lead some Danish troups and had to flee. The Swedish troups won the battle however, but the war dragged on until 1679. In 1680 Carl XI introduced autocracy and a reduction was made where he withdrew many castles from the aristocracy to the state. The king was sometimes called “the grey coat” for his modest soldier clothing, in contrast to the flamboyant fashioned dresses of Carl X Gustav. In 1682 the Subdivision Authority was founded and rules for general uniformation: What the uniforms would look like, how to tell Swedish soldiers from foreign and tell the different regiments apart. Also new regiment banners were made. The Caroline Soldiers which you see in the photo above have copied the uniforms from this era.

In 1697 the Royal Castle Tre Kronor was burned by accident while Carl XI was dying. The new king Carl XII, 15 years old,  had to save his family from the burning flames. Carl XII was declared having come of age and entered the throne. Carl XII was the last Swedish warrior king and spent most of his rule out of the country in various wars. Carl XII also chose to dress like a common soldier unlike the aristocratic officers. The king also became appreciated in the ranks for his own bravery, but also hated by others. In 1700 the Great Scandinavian War broke out with Swedish attacks on Denmark, and it would last 1700 – 1721. Carl XII was then 18 years old. One early Swedish success anno 1700 was the battle of Narva in Ingermanland, northern Estonia. 10 500 Swedes fought ca 30 000 Russians under Zcar Peter the Great. 12 000 Russians fell but “only” 600 Swedes. However in 1709 the luck changed. At the battle of Poltava in southern Ukraine Zcar Peter defeated the Swedish forces who despite help from Kazak leader Mazepa didn’t win. Carl XII had to flee with some officers and troups to the Turkish sultan, while many Swedes were either killed or taken captive by the Russians, taken to Moscow and then to Siberia. Many died there, and only a few survivors returned to Sweden 10 – 20 years later. After this loss the Danish king tried to take Scania back, was invited by the citizens of Helsingborg, which the Swedes recented.The battle fought in February 1710 was won by the Swedish army. That was the last Danish attempt to regain its losses from the 1600’s.

The Turkish sultan welcomed the Swedish monarch and his troups in 1709 and Carl XII tried to persuade the Sultan to go to war against Zar Peter. He did, but then made a truce with Russia. This vexed king Carl and he stayed at Bender in Moldava for several years while he sent his messengers to Sweden and abroad on scientific journeys. During this time in Bender Carl XII also made plans for new buildings in Stockholm, a system for driving on the right side of the road, (which was introduced in Sweden in 1967), and also plans for income-tax return. On February 1st 1713 the Sultan had had enough and decided to force the king and his troups away. Thousands of Turks attacked the small camp at Bender where the king and about 40 Caroline soldiers defended themselves. The king refused to leave and this episode is called “The kalabalik in Bender”. “Kalabalik” in Turkish means “crowd“, but borrowed into the Swedish language it has got the meaning “chaos/turmoil“. It would take a year before the Swedish monarch returned to Sweden. King Carl XII brought with him to Sweden in his entourage among others, some Arabs, some Turks and a few Jews. In those days the Swedish law said that all inhabitants of Sweden had to be Christians. However, in a responding letter dated February 12th 1718 king Carl XII gave permission for the newcomers to practice their religions. (Real freedom of religion nevertheless would come gradually from the late 1800’s until the mid 1900’s). When the Swedish king tried to invade Norway he met his destiny on November 30th 1718. Carl XII was standing in a shooting trench outside Fredriksten Fort near Oslo/Christiania. The king was looking up from the trench leaning his head on his hand. A shot came and entered one of his temples. According to eye-witnesses it sounded like a tiny smack, his head sank down and he was dead. The debate has been fierce whether he was shot by Norwegians or if he had become the victim of a Swedish political plot where maybe other Royals and officers were involved. The Swedish army had to go back to Sweden and general Armfeldt and his troups went through wintry blizzards and deep snow over the mountains where many soldiers froze to death, or were victimized in other ways. Some of them succeeded to get back to Sweden though. The coat and gloves of Carl XII might also be seen at the Royal Armouries.With the death of Carl XII the Swedish Super-Power Era came to an end, then to be replaced in the 1700’s by the Freedom Era, enlightenment and Gustav III’s enlightened despotism. But that is another chapter in the Swedish history.

Anders Moberg, June 26th 2013

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Midsummer Celebrations

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Yesterday it was Midsummer’s Eve and I visited some friends in Halmstad. Halmstad is situated in the southern part of Halland, the county just north-west of Scania. Before the Swedish conquest Skåne/Scania, Halland and the county of Blekinge, north-east of Scania were sometimes referred to as the Scanian Provinces. Småland north of Scania however has always been Swedish, ever since the formation of Svea Realm/Sweden in the Middle Ages. Today on Midsummer’s Day it’s time to reflect on why we celebrate Midsummer and give a little account of how we do it, and how the celebrations have developed over time.

Midsummer has to do with the astronomic phenomenon of the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. In Sweden and other parts of Scandinavia there are stone monuments from the Bronze Age which seem to have been sacred sites for celebrating the sun. Celebrating the sun and midsummer in some way is an ancient phenomenon which seem to have existed in various ways all over the globe since far way back in early human prehistory. Here in Sweden there are also stone carvings, in Swedish called “hällristningar”, from the late Stone Age, but also from the Bronze Age. The Bronze Age carvings which are 2500 – 4000 years old among other things depict people venerating the sun, and different forms of sacrificial rites, maybe some kind of fertility rites as well. From a comparative religious and ethnologic perspective we may perhaps detect some traces of connections to and influences from the Indian subcontinent concerning veneration of sun deities, as well as mercantile affairs with people far away already back then during the Bronze Age.  Some findings in recent years seem to point in that direction. The oldest written descriptions of Midsummer festivities in the Scandinavian countries are those described in the Icelandic King Sagas from the 13th century A.D.

In the 4th century A.D. the Christian Church in southern Europe connected the Midsummer festivities to Saint John the Baptist and his day, June 24th. According to the Gospel of Luke in the New Testament John the Baptist was born six months before Jesus Christ, and since the Church had decided to celebrate Jesus’ Birth in December John the Baptist’s Day was celebrated on June 24th. This then spread and became part of all Christian countries. In  Sweden, Norway and Denmark this day is also called Sankt Hans/Saint John, but the celebrations are generally referred to as Midsummer. According to the Swedish Church Year the Midsummer’s Day and John the Baptist’s Day have been celebrated on the same day, but in 2003 the saint’s day was moved to the Sunday after Midsummer’s Day. Since 1953 Midsummer’s Day always occur on a Saturday between June 20th and June 26th in Sweden and Finland, but before 1953 always on June 24th. In Denmark and Norway they celebrate Sankt Hans Aften/Saint John’s Eve on June 24th with bon fires, games and the burning of paper witches. They also sing “Midsommervisen” by Holger Drachmann and P.E. Lang-Müller.

During the 14th century the nuns at Sko Nunnery here in Sweden asked for permission to arrange Midsummer festivities of a more popular variant, but in decent forms. This in protest against the then widespread Midsummer celebrations which included heavy drinking and sacrilege by some. In 1425 archbishop Johannes in Lund banned Midsummer Night Watches and vigils because of all the hooliganism and mischief that existed.  It was also during the 14th or 15th century A.D. that we in Sweden got the tradition from Germany with a Midsummer Pole or May Pole. May in this case means “usage of leaves”. The Midsummer Pole/May Pole is often in the shape of a large cross, dressed in leaves, twigs, flowers and ribbons. On each side of the cross-beam  a large circle is placed, maybe to symbolise eternity, the passing of the year and the sun.

Ever since the Middle Ages we celebrate traditional Midsummer with dancing around the Midsummer Pole. At the end of the 19th century the traditions began to take a more distinct form, and has been celebrated very much the same all over Sweden the last 130-150 years. One tradition is for girls to collect seven kinds of flowers on the meadow to see who she will marry as a woman, put wreaths of flowers in the hair, mainly for children and women. Another common tradition is to drink alcohol, often Scandinavian vodka/schnaps, but before the 1850’s it was more common with beer and wine. Those bevarages are still rather common on the table. If you don’t want to drink beer, wine or schnaps you always may use cider, soda or something else. Every year there are many, both youngsters and grown-ups, who drink too heavily and don’t know when to stop. Many accidents, rapes, beatings and quarrels occur during this holiday. Every year the police have to make many arrests and children worry over parents or other adults who drink too much. However, used with moderation it might be a nice tradition. The eating of herring with different spices, combined with chive and whipped processed sour milk is traditional. We often also eat meat balls, potatoes, salmon, sausages, and as dessert straw-berries.  The herring which is a rather common dish became part of the feast food on Midsummer first after World War II 1939-1945.

Some of the dances and songs used during the games around the Midsummer Pole/May Pole are songs and games like “små grodorna”/”little frogs”. The melody though is taken from a military march from the days of the French revolution, “La chanson de l’oignon”/The onion song. The games and songs from the late 19th century and the folk dances were however made to shape traditions that venerated the hard-working rural Sweden. The elderly gentleman in one of the pictures above is dressed in one of the many folk suits from the 19th century.

My friends and I  had a great time together yesterday, and also took a trip outside Halmstad to see some sites there, the beach, some old houses from the 17th – 19th century and simply enjoy the day. The weather-forecast had been very gloomy and warned us for heavy rains and lousy Midsummer, and yes it did rain heavily, but luckily for us it was mainly a couple of rather shorth showers of rain, and most of the day was beautiful. When I sat on the train on my way back home to Malmoe last night I watched the sun shimmer from the night sky between 9 and 9.30. pm, and the fact that we had been celebrating the summer solstice, the longest day of the year became evident.

Anders Moberg, June 22d 2013

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The Sofielund Festival 2013

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The photo above I took Saturday June 1st at the Sofielund Festival in a part of the Southern Inner City called Sofielund/Sophie’s Grove, more precisely in southern Sofielund at a small square named Seveds Plan/Seved’s Plaza. Between 1999 and 2008 I was working as a teacher in Sofielund and was very dedicated. During those years I experienced many things both good and bad. Because of my dedication, and the fact that I encouraged, helped and supported many youngsters and their families I still to some extent have a good relation to some of those now young adults in the area whom I used to teach a few years ago. Of course not to all, but to quite a number of them.

In May I got an invitation from a couple of my former pupils via Facebook to the Sofielund Festival/Sofielundsfestivalen 2013 in Seved, southern Sofielund. Seved is an area that often has been mentioned in the media because of problems in the suburb: the selling of drugs, crime, kids who behave like small-time gangsters and tiny maffiosos, social problems, attitude problems among some of them, vandalization, extreme poverty, some neglected houses by landlords and rather high unemployment. It’s described as one of the poorest areas in the country. This area in southern Sofielund, and especially around Seveds Plan/Seved’s Plaza is mostly inhabited by people from Iraq, by Somalians, Hispanics, Romany families and some Swedish families mainly with working class background. The problems that exist here are part of the truth, but there is also another much finer, warmer and more dignified side to the truth that seldom make headlines in newspapers, on TV News, on American Fox News, or on racist web sites like Avpixlat and National.nu. It’s that warmer and finer side of reality that I intend to describe in this text.

I know that many people on and around Seved also are fed up with being described like problems, but instead do what they can to work for a positive self-esteem, encouraging each other to do good things, work for the community, being  proud of who they are. From my experience I’ve learned that if someone always and often enough is described as a problem already as a kid, as a criminal or suspected criminal, if someone is described as hopeless, as a looser or scum-bag, then that person will have a higher risk of actually being drawn into a life of crime or other bad things. This is not the only reason. Another reason is social injustice, poverty, and demands from the surrounding society, media, commercials, celebrity sites etc,  of what is seen as high status or not. Many want to reach that, but forget the human dignity and care on the way because of all the shallowness.  We humans are mainly pack creatures, we hunt in packs and we are social beings. We all want acceptance from the group that we identify us with. How do we get that? And more importantly in this case…How do we get it in a sound way? How do we encourage and support positive role models in an area such as Sofielund and Seved? How do we encourage a balance between individual progress, ambition and wish for success with a care for each other and the inner development for human dignity? How do make the general view among “ordinary Swedes” less judgemental and prejudiced? How do we encourage the landlords to take care of their buildings? How do we encourage the grown-ups to foster their kids not to commit crimes in an area like Seved? How do we create a deeper trust between the good forces at Seved and the Malmoe Police for example? How do we solve the social problems, the attitude problems and create foundations for a calmer, nicer and more secure Malmoe? A situation where we might feel an even greater pride for the city, for Sweden as a country, Scania as a region, but also for our individual pride and group pride?

When I came to Seveds Plan around noon on June 1st the festival had just started. Tables were placed in the middle of the plaza, a stage, a police van was parked nearby when I came surveiling the event, but that van soon disappeared. Malmoe Against Discrimination had an information table there, different ethnic food tables, mainly Somalian and Arabic ones, but also “ordinary” Swedes selling hot dogs, mustard and ketchup. I walked into the house where the Somalian culture club Hidde iyo Dhaqan has its premises and talked to the people there. Lasse Flygare who’s working at Hidde iyo Dhaqan gave me a small sign with the text Sofielundsfestivalen VÄN/The Sofielund Festival ImageFRIEND.

Outside I was talking to my former pupils Absame and Ahmed who I’m glad and proud to say have developed into two fine young men. They are now as young men youth leaders and have started an association called Seveds Förening/Seved’s Association. They are working for lifting the area and pinpoint the positive forces instead of the negative ones: A will for positive change, for self-pride, a sound life style, against crime, encourage entrepreneurship, dialogue etc. I also got a t-shirt with the text “We stand up for multicultuarism – Together we make a difference. Seved’s Association”.

On stage different artists appeared and Gonza from Advance Patrol was presenting them. Some of the artists were local talents like the young men and the young woman who were dancing hip hop and street dance with such acrobatic skills that it was amazing. Really high class talents. There was African music, drums played, dancing groups, children appearing on stage and a choire singing.

The fire-brigade appeared and fire-men stood there in the sun-shine talking relaxed with the gathered people while small kids curiously wanted to see the fire-brigades vehicle. The sun was shining most of the time and the atmosphere was as welcoming as the sun. Down-to-earth, relaxed, warm, accepting, loving and casual, but also high quality entertainment and really good food. Ahmed and Absame took me to the grass behind the houses behind Seveds Plan where the kids had a little football tournament. Even if some houses are neglected and in bad shape which often is mentioned in media since it suits the media picture, not all houses are bad but actually nice ones. It was enjoyable seing the kids playing and the young adults lead them. After a while dark clouds appeared on the sky and when I was back on the plaza near the stage talking with Mattias Gardell, Professor of Comparative Religion at Uppsala University, the first rain drops appeared. Even if the rain came that afternoon the sun was still shining on the event as such and the wonderful strength of the local people. Seveds Förening and Hidde iyo Dhaqan are two local forces that, given the respect and possibilities, might help turning the negative trend at least to some extent. I hope so anyway.

Anders Moberg, June 19th 2013

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Sweden’s National Commemoration Day last week

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Last week we celebrated Sweden’s National Commemoration Day, June 6th. The pictures above were taken during two different celebrations that day in different parts of town. Before noon I was celebrating the day with pomp and circumststance at the Major Square and a couple of hours later in Beijer’s Park at the Hill Carnival/Backakarnevalen in my part of town, Kirseberg/Cherry Hill.

So what did we celebrate? Why June 6th? The choice of date has been under debate for years and also the events chosen, but still I believe that it’s a nice tradition that might strengthen the national identity and national pride. Having said that everyone who knows me also knows that in my personal case I see no problem with feeling pride for my country and a national identity and combine that with an acceptance for the multicultural nation that Sweden is today.

On June 6th 1523 Gustav I Wasa was crowned king of Sweden at Strängnäs Cathedral. He was the first king of what would become “the modern” Sweden. We had had kings for centuries already in various forms, but in the beginning they were more like local chieftains and rivals of the power over rather small kingdoms, a county or two.

In the beginning of the 13th century Sweden began becoming a more destinct entity, even if we had different sets of laws in different parts of the country, though with a national king, barons, dukes, sheriffs, overseers, merchants, peasants and a feudal society like most other European countries. In 1397 Queen Margareta became regent of what has been called the Kalmar Union, a united realm consisting of Denmark, Sweden and Norway. By her death in 1412 that union was abandoned and a period of national and private interests followed. Mountain inhabitants in Dalarna, local lords and merchants in Stockholm all wanted a free Sweden without foreign merchants and overlords. The people in Uppland north of Stockholm and the Scanians though supported the union idea. The struggle went on. In 1457 the Danish king Christian was crowned Swedish and Scandinavian king, but in 1464 Karl Knutsson Bonde who got help from the men in Dalarna chased the Danish king away and took the power. In 1470 Sten Sture became Head of Realm/Riksföreståndare and remained in that position for 27 years. Over more than the next decade many of the Swedish aristocrats led by Sten Sture and his dynasty and local merchants fought about the power with the unionists with mostly a Danish power structure. On October 10th 1471 Sten and Nils Sture had fought the Danish troups outside Stockholm at the battle of Brunkeberg.

In 1520 the Danish king Christian II defeated Sten Sture Junior on the ices of Lake Åsunden in Västergötland and then he was crowned king of Sweden. At the coronation banquet at Stockholm Castle on November 7th 1520, after three days of feasting,  he had all the Swedish guests, barons, bishops, aristocratic ladies arrested and taken to the Major Square where they were decapitated. Some rival bishops had accused the others of herecy. Archbishop Gustav Trolle led the swift court before the executions ordered by king Christian’s advisor Didrik Slagheck. One of the executed noblemen was Gustav Wasa’s father, Erik Johansson. The young nobleman Gustav Eriksson Wasa had together with five others been hostages on Jutland, Denmark, but he had managed to escape back to Sweden. After the Stockholm Bloodbath on November 7th and 8th 1520 Gustav went to Dalarna where he tried to get support for his cause against king Christian. He hid among farmers, but didn’t behave like an ordinary peasant help. Gustav Eriksson was naturally chased by the king’s men. When the local people understood what had happened in Stockholm and that they would suffer even harder rules they chose to support Gustav Eriksson. Two men on skis went after him from Mora to Sälen and told him so, when they found him. Gustav Eriksson came back to Mora in the middle of January 1521 and the new war began. On June 6th 1523 he was crowned king of Sweden. Gustav I Wasa became an equally hard king and used his power harshly. These were the days of the strife between Roman Catholics and the new Protestant Lutheran and Calvinist movement in Europe. The Swedish king became head of the new Lutheran Swedish State Church. Catholics, monks, nuns were banished and persecuted. Gustav I of Sweden had a rule very similar to that of Henry VIII of England, both in events, years and behaviour. Among other similar events was king Gustav’s trial in 1540 against the priests and scholars Master Olof and Lars Magnusson who refused to see the king as sovereign lord of the Swedish church. Compare this with Henry VIII’s trial against Sir Thomas Moore in 1535. Gustav I died in 1560. That we commemorate June 6th 1523 has been debated for years. One reason for protest is that Gustav I Wasa never was king over the provinces Skåne/Scania, Halland, Blekinge, Bohuslän in western Sweden, the island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea, Jämtland and Härjedalen. They became part of Sweden first in 1645-1660.

Another reason for commemorating June 6th is the fact that Duke Karl, who then would become king Karl XIII signed the draft for a new government form on June 6th 1809. That law was passed first on June 29th that year, even though the signing took place on June 6th. The government form of 1809 had to be accepted by the four states: aristocracy, priests, bourgoisie and farmers in the Swedish Parliament. That government form was then valid until 1973. On June 6th 1973 the first decision was made in Parliament about the new government form of 1974.

Sweden’s National Commemoration Day, also called “The Swedish Flag Day” became just that in 1916. The choice of June 6th was proposed by the Minister of Justice Carl Axel Petri already in 1893, but it would take some years before it really was decided. In 1984 “The Swedish Flag Day” became an official red day in the almanac but as late as 2004 a day more distinctly celebrated to show the national identity. Nowadays also immigrants who have been accepted as new Swedish citizens become officially welcomed in different cermonies on June 6th.

So how was the day celebrated on the Major Square in Malmoe? Well, the Police Music Corpse Scania led by Kjell Olsson played, dances were performed by The Folk Dance’s Friends and SGV Folk Dance Team, a poem about Sweden was read by the winner in a school competition, the Swedish blue banner with the yellow cross was flied to the top by the Öresund Marines while the orchestra played “The Army’s Parade March”. The County Governor of Scania held her speech, the national anthem was sung as well as some other songs that wake up warm feelings of identity and summer. The choir came from the Berga School Music Profile Class.

Celebrating the national commemoration day is a nice thing and I like it, but I want to use it for a balanced national pride instead of the exaggerated notions used by xenofobics and racists.

Anders Moberg, June the 15th 2013

The positive aspects of police work

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The picture above I took during Sweden’s national commemoration day on June 6th here in Malmoe. I asked the police officer in the photo if it was okay if I used it for my blog and she accepted. This text is meant to pinpoint mainly the positive aspects of police work, even if It also discusses some attitude problems too. Two weeks ago I wrote a text where I critisized dark aspects of police work, excessive and unnecessary violence, bad attitudes and racism within the Swedish police force. There is no doubt that such attitudes do exist, or at least very categoric generalizations are made to “simplify” the work in various situations.So what can be done to improve the situation? First we must be honest with the fact that the categoric ideas and rather blunt sterotype values flourish within the police, and that also innocent, good people become victims of suspicon because of their skin colour or social background. That is a big problem which must be solved so that the police might improve their status among wider groups, also among immigrants. To some extent things are easening up. The detective assistant Carin Brange here in Malmoe told me last year that the Malmoe police were taking courses in multicultural and social issues. However sometimes police officers who suggest improvements in how to deal with social issues are rejected and neglected. In February 2009 Niklas Orrenius, journalist at the newspaper Sydsvenskan here in Malmoe had interviewed a former journalist colleague, Björn Holmberg, who had changed his career and become a police officer. As a police he after a while began talking about immigrants as “black heads”, which his girl friend didn’t like. As a police officer Björn saw the backside of society. There aren’t many police officers with immigrant background, even if they do exist, but they are too few in number considering the ethnic mix in cities like Malmoe, Landskrona, Helsingborg or Kristianstad. Björn Holmberg told Niklas Orrenius : “Police work is dealing with taking care of law-brakers. But as a police officer you often see that nothing really happens. Strange cases where people are let loose, or the sentences become very short. Then there might be a wish to retaliate. Then maybe someone in an excited situation, during a demonstration for example, take the chance to beat extra hard with the truncheon. I don’t defend it, but that’s how it is.” About the bosses Björn and his colleague Anja Olsson said: “The high police bosses protect themselves. They are itchy. They are more like politicians. Some are lawyers who never have been working as police officers at all. They’re sitting in a protected environment”.

The police are meant to keep some kind of order in society. In many cases they are doing a great job and they are important for keeping structure in the society and preventing crime. In the  police folder Safe and secure in Malmoe we might also read about different pieces of advice from the police how to avoid ending up in trouble or in criminal networks.

  • Always demand receipt when you buy things
  • Avoid buying suspiciously cheap cigarettes or alcohol which might come from the black market
  • Avoid using illegal taxi drivers
  • Do not visit illegal clubs

Heja Malmö is an initiative taken as co-operation between Malmoe Municipality and the Police where the aim is to avoid the black market. By making deliberate choices as an ordinary citizen it might contribute to limitting the black market and the crime connected to it. In Malmoe the black market is estimated to about 6 billion kronor each year, so it’s better to use safer ways.

The Malmoe police and their colleagues in the rest of Scania also have extra help by trained civilians, police volontairies who aid the police with creating a safer city. They inform citizens about ways to protect themselves by handing out folders, they are extra help on bigger events such as football matches,  concerts etc. They might be reached at http://www.polisen.se/volontariskane.

If you have seen a crime, or have been victimized yourself you might call 114 14 or e-mail the police on tipsapolisen.skane@polisen.se

These are a few ways to improve the situation. I would personally like to see

  • more female police officers,
  • more police officers with immigrant background,
  • more awareness about social causes  and the importance of early information to children 
  • improved multi-cultural competence
  • A higher status for equality issues
  • Improved work against honour-related crime.
    An improved understanding among both “ordinary citizens” and people on the brink of being drawn into a criminal life for the important work the police actually are doing.

Let’s see what we might do to get a better society.

Anders Moberg, June 14th 2013

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