Land and People
Sweden falls into two main geographical regions: the north (Norrland), comprising about two thirds of the country, which is mountainous (except for a narrow strip of lowland along the Gulf of Bothnia); and the south (Svealand and Götaland), which is mostly low-lying and where most of the population lives. About 65% of Sweden's land area is forested, and less than 10% is arable. The country has several large rivers, which generally flow in a southeastward direction; these include the Götaälv, the Dalälven, the Indalsälven, the Ångermanälven, the Umeälv, the Skellefteälven, the Luleälv, and the Torneälv. There are also a number of large lakes, including lakes Vänern, Vättern, Mälaren, Storsjön, Hjälmaren, Siljan, and Uddjaur. The highest point in Sweden is Kebnekaise (6,965 ft/2,123 m), located in the Kölen (Kjölen) Mts. in Lapland.
The great majority of the nation's population speaks Swedish and is descended from Scandinavian tribes (see Germans); there is a sizable Finnish-speaking minority and a small Sami-speaking (Lapp) minority. About 12% of the population is foreign born. Most Swedes belong to the Evangelical Lutheran Church; the metropolitan see is at Uppsala. It was long the official state church, but it was disestablished in 2000. The Nobel Prizes (except the Peace Prize) are awarded annually in Sweden. Social welfare legislation has long been advanced and comprehensive, providing for pensions, maternity benefits, health insurance, and allowances for all children.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.