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The Swedish Empire, or Svenska Imperiet (commonly known as "Stormaktstiden" or "The great era of power" or "The age of great power"), was the Kingdom of Sweden's epoch as a military great power, officially lasting for 110 years, between 1611 and 1721. Throughout this time, Sweden was the largest country in Europe (excluding colonies) and possessed a military that was recognized as one of the most powerful in the world.

The Swedish Empire
Swedish Empire
The flag of the Swedish Empire is still used by the Royal Swedish Navy

Rise

1611

Fall

1721

Capital

Stockholm

Languages

Swedish, Finnish, Norwegian, Estonian, Sami, Low German, Livonian, Latvian, Danish, Latin

Religion

Lutheranism

Government

Theocratic absolute monarchy

Population

2,500,000

Colonies

New Sweden, Swedish Gold Coast, Guadeloupe, Gustavia, Tobago

Rise of the Swedish EmpireEdit

The Swedish emergence into a grand European empire began in 1611 when Gustav II Adolf (Gustav the Great) inherited the throne and immediately begun reforming the country. Sweden was the largest Protestant nation at the time when the Catholic league attempted to prevent the reformation. Gustav II realized this and created a system of peasant conscription, slowly building a professional national army. While the potential enemies relied mainly on corrupt mercenaries without honor or faith, the Swedish army was fiercely patriotic and eager to serve the king to protect their homeland. Sweden was now officially proclaimed the Defender of the Faith by all protestants of the world, with Gustav II Adolf commanding the army and Axel Oxenstierna effectively taking care of the country during the king's campaigns throughout Germany.

The Carolean ArmyEdit

See also: Caroleans

Karolinsk skyltdocka

A mannequin dressed in Carolean uniform with appropriate weaponry

The Caroleans (Karoliner) were Swedish elite soldiers, equipped and trained by Karl XI in the late 17th century. The Caroleans were an offensive military power that utilized a revolutionary tactic: all ranks would be placed so they could fire their muskets at once, and then immediately charge into melee combat rather than continue shooting. Because of slow reload rate and poor accuracy of the muskets of this time, the tactic proved to be extremely useful when facing numerous, poorly organized opponents. To improve morale and loyalty, Caroleans were strictly religious, believing that any battle was decided by God's decree - and the king of Sweden was God's messenger on Earth, meaning no force could ever defeat them. With this belief, Caroleans would never surrender and only retreat when it could be considered a "tactical withdrawal to improve the army's chance of winning a battle". Carolean soldiers were also extremely disciplined, marching forward slowly in tight lines despite enemy fire to use their own muskets at very close range, causing maximum damage for a few losses. Also, unlike most other soldiers of this time, Caroleans never commited crimes against civilians such as rape or looting, in part due to their strong Christian beliefs and in part because of the harsh punishments within the Swedish army of this time. A soldier that was found guilty of drinking while in service, falling asleep on his guard, raping, looting, commiting adulteryor surrendering to the enemy would be executed in front of the fellow soldiers. Strict discipline kept the military together even though the Caroleans suffered from cold, hunger and disease most of the time after 1706 to the end of the Great Northern War.Approximately 200,000 Swedes and Swedish-supportive foreigners (military and civilians) were killed throughout the war, but only 12% (25,000) of these were killed by the enemy. The rest suffered from starvation, famine, disease, exhaustion and hypothermia. Despite these heavy losses, the Caroleans dominated the battlefields of Europe for many years, until the physical suffering became too great, combined with the lack of united leadership.

Fall of the Swedish EmpireEdit

See also: Battle of Poltava

Swedish Empire (all territories)

The Swedish Empire 1611-1721 on a modern map. Dark blue color shows the actual empire while light blue shows puppet-state territory or occupied territory

On the 8 of July, 1709, an army of approximately 20,000 Swedish soldiers, since long plagued by famine, exhaustion and starvation, reached a Russian army of at least 44,500 men with 130 cannons. The Russians were deeply entrenched with redoubts, field forts, trenches and even a heavily fortified castle behind the Russian lines. Despite the obvious disadvantage for the exposed Swedish army, whom only had 4 small field guns, Karl XII ordered his troops to attack the Russians. This was the battle of Poltava, widely considered to be the greatest defeat in Swedish history. After the destruction of most of his army, Karl XII fled to the Ottoman Empire hoping for military support, but none was given. Instead the Ottomans forced him out of the country in the Skirmish at Bender. Several years later, the king was killed (possibly assassinated) during the Siege of Fredrikshald, breaking the Swedish morale and resulting in the army returning to Sweden, carrying the king's corpse all the way across the Norwegian mountains. With news of the childless king's death reaching Stockholm, Swedish officials immediately begun struggling to achieve more power and abolish the absolute monarchy, while negotiating for peace with the enemy nations despite the war not being completely lost yet. Today, many historical theorists blame the Swedish government's power struggle against the king to have caused the empire's fall, and that the war could still have been won even after the king's death if sufficient leadership had been available. Sweden lost its prestige and influence over other European nations in 1721, but it would take almost a hundred years until 1809 before any major territory was lost.

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