Sweden is a Scandinavian country located in northern Europe, sharing land borders with Norway and Finland. Sweden is also connected via land-bridge to Denmark. In the east, Sweden’s coast meets the Gulf of Bothnia in the northeast and the Baltic Sea in the southeast.
Sweden has a temperate climate, with the proximity of the Gulf Stream giving the country milder winters than other countries at similar latitudes. In south and central Sweden temperatures range from 20 to 25 degrees Celsius in the summer, and -4 to 2 degrees in the winter. In the north, winters are longer and colder, and summers are shorter and cooler.
Historically, Sweden is strongly associated with Viking culture, being one of the primary points of origin of the seafaring raiders who spread across Europe. These days, Sweden is also known as a highly egalitarian culture, having long embraced a variety of progressive stances designed to promote equality.
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The early Swedes were described as a powerful tribe of people, ruled by kings, and known for their distinctive longships. Between the 8th and 11th centuries CE, Sweden was one origin point of the Scandinavian invaders—the Vikings—that travelled south and east across Europe, trading, raiding, and colonising as they went.
In Sweden itself, in the Middle Ages the kingdom was an important trade centre, and during this time the country slowly converted from Paganism to Christianity. Swedish kings expanded into neighbouring territories, and during the Thirty Years War and other conflicts of the 17th century became a significant European power. With limited resources, however, most of these territories were lost in the 18th century. The country began to focus more on its developing economy, and the early 19th century marks the last time Sweden went to war, remaining officially neutral during both World War I and II.
After a period of economic decline in the mid-20th century Sweden joined the EU. While the country does not enter into military alliances, it does participate in some international military peacekeeping operations.
Sweden is home to a typical array of European mammals—including elk, wolves, bears, lynx, and wild boar—as well as several that are much less common on the continent. In the northern reaches of the country there are snowy white Arctic foxes, and a small population of wolverines also remain in the country, mostly in the forests of central Sweden.
Native plants include shrubs such as the Alvar wormwood, a rare plant that grows in dry limestone soil, and a wide array of wildflowers, including brightly coloured anemones, and a species of ranunculus commonly known as the meadow buttercup. The Norway spruce is also native to Sweden, and while the tree was once thought to have been a recent introduction, living Norway spruce specimens have been found that are nearly 10,000 years old.
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