Historically the two countries have been connected since ancient days, where Swedish Vikings traded on the big Russian rivers and started settlements that later became large cities such as Novgorod and Kiev. These settlements gave rise to mutual bonds that were also dynastical, as a Swedish king (Rurik) started a dynasty that came to rule uninterruptedly from the 8th to 16th century as depicted in the Nestors chronicle. Even the name Russia is said to emanate from Sweden as the old name for Swedish Vikings from the east were Ros. During the middle age several wars were fought between the Swedes and Russians and 11 wars have been fought between Russia and Sweden only since the 15th century. In these wars superior Russian forces often outnumbered the Swedish, which however often stood their ground in battles such as those of Narva (1700) and Svensksund (1790) due to Swedens capable military organisation. In 1610 the Swedish army marched into Moscow under the command of Jakob De la Gardie. Swedens most dramatic defeat on the battleground came however on 1709 at the battle of Poltava, in an attempt to second the Ukrainian rebellion leader Mazepa.
In the Great Northern War, Swedish prisoners of war were sent in considerable numbers to Siberia, where they numbered perhaps 25% of the population of Tobolsk, the capital of Siberia, and some settled permanently. St Petersburg, which is located at the same place as the originally Swedish city Nyen in the province Ingermanland, was also built to a great extent by Swedish prisoners of war. When Estonia was under Swedish rule in 1558–1710, the territory was later ceded to Russia in 1721. All Estonian-Swedes from the island of Hiiumaa were forced to move to New Russia (present day Ukraine) by Catherine II of Russia, where they formed their very own village Gammalsvenskby. After the last Russo-Swedish war ended in 1809, Finland was handed over as a Russian territory (Finland gained independence in 1917).
The Swedish 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. 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, U-137, a Soviet submarine of whiskey class (according to NATO terminology) ran aground on Swedish territorial waters near Karlskrona. Early morning on the day after local fishermen spotted the submarine standing on the rocks in the Blekinge archipelago, an episode commonly labelled "Whiskey on the rocks". At this occasion Swedish naval forces took stand along the naval borders of Sweden and it was later revealed that the Swedish Premier Torbjörn Fälldin had issued order to shoot to the navy, should approaching Soviet navy cross the Swedish sea border. Swedish defence research also confirmed there could be nuclear weapons aboard the submarine. Over the years, there have been many incidents where the Soviet Union has tried to collect military information from Sweden, including sightings of Soviet submarines along the Swedish coastline and espionage affaires.
Relations between the two nations worsened after Moscow had rejected plans for a major EU-Russia summit in Stockholm. Then-Russian president Dmitry Medvedev believed that the summit should take place in Brussels because he believed it was a more neutral place for the summit. Another source of tension in the Russo-Swedish relations is Russia's recognition of the two breakaway regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which broke away from Georgia after the 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. Swedish politician Jan Björklund has also suggested that military units should be put on Gotland in case of a war between Russia and Sweden.
The Nord Stream 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. 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. The Swedish government gave its approval of the project in November 2009.
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.
After many years of restrictions on movement during Soviet times, there is now a great inflow of Russian tourists and immigrants from the former Baltic Soviet states and the large Russian cities to Sweden, and as a consequence signs in Russian is becoming more and more common in Sweden.
- Russo-Swedish Wars
- Russians in Sweden
- Russian National Association
- Anti-Russian sentiment in Sweden
- Donbass Association
- Swedish School in Moscow
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