Russia–Sweden relations

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Russia–Sweden relations
Map indicating locations of Russia and Sweden



Russia–Sweden relations date back to the 10th century; when Vikings called Varangians participated in the founding new states that later evolved into Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.


Historically the two countries have been connected since ancient days, when Swedish Vikings traded on the big Russian rivers and settled in Slavic settlements that later became large cities such as

Novgorod and Kyiv. These settlements gave rise to mutual bonds that were also dynastical, as a Varangian king (Rurik) started a dynasty that came to rule uninterruptedly from the 9th to 16th century as depicted in the Nestor's chronicle
. Even the name Russia is derived from Varangians as the old name for Vikings in the east were Rus.


During the Middle Ages several wars were fought between the Swedes and Russians, and

eleven wars have been fought between Russia and Sweden since the 12th century.[citation needed

The central theme of the 1600–1725 era was the struggle between Sweden and Russia for control of the Baltic, as well as territories around it. Russia was ultimately the winner, and as a result Sweden lost its status as a major power.[1] In 1610 the Swedish army marched into Moscow under the command of Jakob De la Gardie. From 1623 to 1709, Swedish policy, particularly under Gustavus Adolphus (1611–32) and Charles XII (1697–1718), encouraged and militarily supported Ukrainian opposition to Muscovite Russian hegemony. Gustavus Adolphus fought the Ingrian War against Russia. It ended in 1617 with the Treaty of Stolbovo, which excluded Russia from the Baltic Sea. Sweden's most dramatic defeat on the battleground came in 1709 at the battle of Poltava, in an attempt to second the Ukrainian rebellion leader Mazepa.[2] In these wars superior Russian forces often outnumbered Swedes, which however often stood their ground in battles such as those of Narva (1700) and Svensksund (1790) due to Sweden's capable military organization.

Great Northern War

In 1700, a triple alliance of

Swedish army against the alliance, King Charles XII won multiple victories despite being usually significantly outnumbered. A major victory over a Russian army some three times the size in 1700 at the Battle of Narva compelled Peter the Great to sue for peace which Charles then rejected. In 1706 Swedish forces under general Carl Gustav Rehnskiöld defeated over a combined army of Saxony and Russia at the Battle of Fraustadt. Russia was now the sole remaining hostile power.[3]

The Battle of Poltava between Russia and Sweden in 1709

Charles' subsequent

march on Moscow met with initial success as victory followed victory, the most significant of which was the Battle of Holowczyn where the smaller Swedish army routed a Russian army twice the size. The campaign ended with disaster when the Swedish army suffered heavy losses to a Russian force more than twice its size at Poltava, Charles had been incapacitated by a wound prior to the battle rendering him unable to take command. The defeat was followed by Surrender at Perevolochna. Charles spent the following years in exile in the Ottoman Empire before returning to lead an assault on Norway, trying to evict the Danish king from the war once more in order to aim all his forces at the Russians. Two campaigns met with frustration and ultimate failure, concluding with his death at the Siege of Fredriksten in 1718.[4]

At the time, most of the Swedish Empire was under foreign military occupation, though Sweden itself was still free. This situation was later formalized, albeit moderated in the subsequent Treaty of Nystad. The close saw not only the end of the Swedish Empire but also of its powerful monarchy and war machine.[5][6]

In the

Catherine II of Russia, where they formed their very own village Gammalsvenskby

Russo-Swedish War of 1788–1790

The Battle of Hogland in 1788

King Gustav III of Sweden initiated the Russo-Swedish War of 1788–1790 for domestic political reasons.

Napoleonic wars

In the middle of the

Napoleonic wars, 1803–1815, Tsar Alexander I of Russia started a war against Sweden. The area included modern Sweden and Finland. Sweden relied on what it called 'The Gibraltar of the North'--the new fortifications at Sveaborg near modern-day Helsinki. It was prepared for heavy attacks and long sieges. Nevertheless, it surrendered to the Russians in a matter of weeks and 1808, due to the forceful demands of Russian General Jan Pieter van Suchtelen and the pusillanimous responses of Swedish Vice-Admiral Carl Olof Cronstedt. After the war ended in 1809, Finland was handed over to Russia. Napoleon's invasion of Swedish Pomerania in January 1812 led to a rapprochement between Sweden and Russia that included Russian recognition of Swedish rule over Norway. There never was another war between the two and Sweden lost its role as a major regional power.[7]

20th Century

The Swedish-Jewish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg between July and December 1944 issued protective passports and housed Jews, saving tens of thousands of Jewish lives in Hungary. In 1944 he was arrested in Hungary and imprisoned in Moscow where he is supposed to have died.[8][9] This occurred in the days of the Soviet Union, but the issue has later even been discussed between Russia and Sweden.

On 27 October 1981, the Soviet submarine

Torbjörn Fälldin had issued the Swedish navy orders to open fire, should approaching units of the Soviet Navy enter Swedish territorial waters. Swedish defence research also confirmed there could be nuclear weapons aboard the submarine. Over the years, there have been many submarine incidents
where the Soviet Union has tried to collect military information from Sweden, including sightings of Soviet submarines along the Swedish coastline and espionage affairs.

21st Century

Russian President Vladimir Putin welcoming King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden in Moscow, 8 October 2001
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven with Russian President Putin at the International Arctic Forum in Saint Petersburg, 9 April 2019

Relations between the two nations worsened after Moscow in 2009 rejected plans for a major EU-Russia summit in

2008 war in South Ossetia. Sweden's then-foreign minister Carl Bildt condemned Russia's actions, and compared it to that of Adolf Hitler's pre-Second World War aggression.[11] Swedish politician Jan Björklund has also suggested that military units should be put on Gotland in case of a war between Russia and Sweden.[12]

The Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline in the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany was the topic of Swedish Defence Research Agency's Robert L. Larsson's 110-page study "Nord Stream, Sweden and Baltic Sea Security" (2007) that found a number of concerning aspects in the Nord Stream project.[13] The Swedish Defence Commission, however, did not mention any military implications of the pipeline in its December 2007 report on security issues and instead called for strict environmental requirements and cooperation between Baltic Sea states on surveillance.[14][15][16] The Swedish government gave its approval of the project in November 2009.[17]

Russian bombers have operated close to Swedish airspace on a number of occasions after the Ukrainian crisis and this has caused a discussion in Sweden to scale up its defences which also happened in 2015 with acquisitions of more Gripen aircraft, submarines, anti aircraft missiles and deployment of troops to Gotland in the Baltic Sea.[18]

In March 2018, relations deteriorated further due to the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury, United Kingdom. Upon the United Kingdom stating that Russia produced the agent used, Russia claimed that several countries including Sweden were producing Novichok, the nerve agent used in the Salisbury attack.[citation needed] The Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Margot Wallström, called the accusations 'unacceptable' on Twitter.[19] In response to the attack, Sweden expelled a Russian diplomat from Stockholm.[20] In response, Russia expelled a Swedish diplomat from Moscow.[21]

Unfriendly Countries List" (red). Countries and territories on the list have imposed or joined sanctions against Russia.[22]

In May 2018 amid tensions with Russia, Sweden sent pamphlets to its households telling its citizens how to prepare in case of war, the first time Sweden had done so since the Cold War in the 1980s.[23][24] In October 2020, Sweden declared that military spending would increase by 40 percent in 5 years citing Russian activity in the Baltic Sea.[25]

In December 2021, Russia warned of "serious military and political consequences" in case of Sweden's NATO membership.[26] In February 2022, after Russia invaded Ukraine, they made the same threats towards Sweden and Finland.[27]

Demonstration on the anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in Stockholm, 24 February 2023

After the

unfriendly nations".[28] Sweden joined other countries in spring 2022 in declaring a number of Russian diplomats persona non grata. In 2023, it summoned Russia's ambassador to complain about a statement on the embassy's web site according to which joining NATO made the Nordic countries "a legitimate target for Russian retaliatory measures, including those of a military nature".[29] A YouGov poll showed that in February 2023, 63% of respondents in Sweden wanted to support Ukraine in a war with Russia until Russian troops leave all occupied territories.[30]


In 2021 Sweden exported good to the value of $2.65 billion to Russia with broadcasting equipment being the top goods. Russia exported $1.53 billion to Sweden with coal tar oil as the top product. Between 1995 and 2021 Swedish goods rose by an average of 5.69% p.a. whilst Russian exports rose by 4.88% p.a. on average.[31]

In August 2023 Sweden exports rose to over SEK 1 billion whilst imports fell to just SEK 24 million.[31]

Football relations

With regard to football, Swedish footballers have earned, in recent years, successful careers in Russian Premier League, the top tier football league in Russia, and Swedish players, as well as players born in Sweden who have chosen to represent other countries, are increasingly omnipresent in Russian league. The most notable Swedish players to have played in Russia include Andreas Granqvist, Pontus Wernbloom, Kim Källström and Marcus Berg.

Sweden participated in the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.[32] The team reached the quarter-finals, where they were knocked-out by England
by the score of 0–2.

Resident diplomatic missions

  • Embassy of Russia in Stockholm
    Embassy of Russia in Stockholm
  • Embassy of Sweden in Moscow
    Embassy of Sweden in Moscow

See also


  1. ^ Jill Lisk, The struggle for supremacy in the Baltic, 1600–1725 (1968).
  2. ^ Gary Dean Peterson, Warrior kings of Sweden: the rise of an empire in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (McFarland, 2007).
  3. ^ R.M. Hatton, Charles XII of Sweden (1968).
  4. ^ F.G. Bengtsson, The Life of Charles XII, King of Sweden, 1697–1718 (1960).
  5. ^ Cronholm, Neander Nicolas (1902). "37". A history of Sweden from the earliest times to the present day. New York.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  6. ^ R. Nisbet Bain, Charles XII and the Collapse of the Swedish Empire, 1682–1719 (1899) online.
  7. ^ Carl Nordling, "Capturing 'The Gibraltar of the North:’ How Swedish Sveaborg was taken by the Russians in 1808." Journal of Slavic Military Studies 17.4 (2004): 715–725.
  8. ^ "Raoul Wallenberg". Yad Vashem. Archived from the original on 7 February 2007. Retrieved 12 February 2007. who saved the lives of tens of thousands of Jews in Budapest during World War II ... and put some 15,000 Jews into 32 safe houses.
  9. ^ "Raoul Wallenberg, Life and Work". The New York Times. 6 September 1991. Retrieved 12 February 2007. The K.G.B. promised today that it would let agents break their vow of silence to help investigate the fate of Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who vanished after being arrested by the Soviets in 1945.
  10. ^ "Relations between Sweden and Russia get frosty". IceNews. 9 July 2009. Retrieved 9 August 2012.
  11. ^ "Sweden invokes Hitler in condemning Russian assault". The Local. AFP. 9 August 2008. Retrieved 9 August 2012.
  12. ^ Lindström, Anna (6 July 2011). "Kritik mot Björklunds utspel om rysk invasion". Expressen (in Swedish). Retrieved 9 August 2012.
  13. ^ Larsson, Robert L. (March 2007). "Nord Stream, Sweden and Baltic Sea Security" (PDF). Swedish Defence Research Agency. Retrieved 9 August 2012. [permanent dead link]
  14. ^ "Försvarsberedningen om gasledningen". Sveriges Radio. 4 December 2007. Retrieved 9 August 2012.
  15. ^ "Summary of report by the Swedish Defence Commission". Ministry of Defence (Sweden), the Swedish Defence Commission. 4 December 2007. Retrieved 22 November 2011.
  16. ^ "Ds 2007:46 Säkerhet i samverkan" (PDF) (in Swedish). The Swedish Defence Commission. 4 December 2007. Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 January 2014. Retrieved 22 November 2011.
  17. ^ "Government says 'yes' to Nord Stream's gas pipeline". Ministry of the Environment (Sweden), Ministry of Enterprise, Energy and Communications (Sweden). 5 November 2009. Retrieved 11 November 2011.
  18. ^ Cenciotti, David (13 November 2013). "Russia Just Pretend-Bombed Sweden—Again". War is Boring. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
  19. ^ @margotwallstrom (17 March 2018). "Forcefully reject unacceptable and..." (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  20. ^ "Sweden expels Russian diplomat over Skripal attack - The Local". Archived from the original on 26 March 2018.
  21. ^ "Russia to expel Swedish diplomat in tit-for-tat response - The Local". Archived from the original on 30 March 2018.
  22. ^ "Russia outlines plan for 'unfriendly' investors to sell up at half-price". Reuters. 30 December 2022.
  23. ^ "Sweden to send war pamphlet to 4.8M households". 22 May 2018.
  24. ^ Dwyer, Colin (22 January 2018). "Unsettled by Russia, Sweden Revives Pamphlets on What to do 'If War Comes'". NPR.
    . 15 October 2020.
  26. ^ "Sweden and Finland dragged into Russia's stand-off with Nato". 28 December 2021. Retrieved 31 December 2021.
  27. ^ "Russia says Finland, Sweden could face consequences if countries move to join NATO". Fox News. 25 February 2022.
  28. ^ Lee, Michael (8 March 2020). "Here are the nations on Russia's 'unfriendly countries' list". CTV News.
  29. ^ Terje Solsvik and Louise Rasmussen (March 2023), Sweden summons Russia's ambassador over "legitimate target" statement Reuters.
  30. ^ "One year on: European and American attitudes to the war in Ukraine". YouGov. 24 February 2023.
  31. ^ a b "Sweden/Russia". August 2023.
  32. ^ "Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Croatia win play-offs". UEFA.

Further reading

  • Birgegård, Ulla; Sandomirskaia, Irina. In Search of an Order: Mutual Representations in Sweden & Russia during the Early Age of Reason (2004), 200pp.
  • Englund, Peter. Battle That Shook Europe: Poltava & the Birth of the Russian Empire (2003), 287pp.
  • Lobanov-Rostovsky, Andrei. Russia and Europe, 1789–1825 (Greenwood Press, 1968) online
  • Metcalf, Michael F. Russia, England and Swedish party politics 1762–1766: the interplay between great power diplomacy and domestic politics during Sweden's age of liberty (Rowman and Littlefield, 1977).
  • Nordling, Carl. "Capturing 'The Gibraltar of the North:'How Swedish Sveaborg was taken by the Russians in 1808." Journal of Slavic Military Studies 17.4 (2004): 715–725.
  • Porshnev, B. F. Muscovy & Sweden in the Thirty Years' War, 1630–1635 (1996), 256pp. excerpt
  • Wilson, Derek. "Poltava: The battle that changed the world." History Today 59.3 (2009): 23+.

External links