Swedification is term, which is used in our history books of the activity, which followed the Swedish takeover in Scania. The question is, what swedification means in this connection. Is it about lawful adaptation, is it the appearance of a new national feeling, or is it about an ethnical purging in order to create a nationality?
After the death of Karl X Gustav in 1660 nobility regency governed Sweden. This
government knew that it was important to attach Scania to Sweden, but which
relations should there by between Stockholm and Scania? Paragraph 9 in the
Roskilde peace treaty form 1658 gave, at least on paper, Scania the possibility
of some degree of autonomy.
The Scanians were thus to be quite independent of Sweden and have a certain amount of autonomy and at the same time have influence in the Swedish parliament. The agreement from this meeting, which is called the “Malmo Recess”, did not include a hard “swedification”.
The foundation of Lund´s University in 1668, however, did spring from a will to
attach Scania closer to Sweden. This also applies when it came the placing of
“real” Swedes in important posts and the establishment of a Swedish military
union in Scania.
Landskrona – Plans for Centralization
“The three largest cities in Sweden are Stockholm, Landskrona and Gothenburg”, perhaps this would have been the case today, if the amazing plans for Landskrona, which existed at the end of the 17th century, had been carried out.
The general governor in Scania wanted a strong basis for the swedification of the landscape. Landskrona was suitable, because of its central position near the Sound, and because they were able to monitor the Danes from there. Carl XI, who trusted Gyllenstjerna, agreed to let Landskrona play an important part. The idea was to unite Scania´s foreign trade, fortifications and town system in this new south Swedish city. Gyllenstjerna wanted a city with room for 5.000 citizens, which would have brought the sum total of the population to 20.000. At this time a very high number of inhabitants and with these plans Landskrona would have become the second largest city in Sweden next to Stockholm. The medieval city was to be rebuilt, enlarged and fortified. Erik Dahlberg, a versatile man, who knew about architecture, fortifications and warfare, was selected to draw up a new city plan and he put forward several proposals, but he himself was somewhat doubtful of the grand designs, which he found unrealistic. Therefore his final proposal was not as fantastic as Gyllenstjerna wanted, but the city would have 1500 inhabitants, which was not so small, after all. The plan was accepted in 1680 and according to Dahlberg Landskrona should have a university as well as a diocese. The old church was to be retained as well as the citadel, but apart from that new ideals were to mark the city. It was to be almost circular and reflect Dahlberg´s idea of an ideal city in the Swedish kingdom. A big power city should have strong fortifications and an almost symmetrical composition. Dahlberg had gathered his ideas from his travels and studies in Europe. There are certain resemblances to Mannheim in Germany.
The idea of Landskrona as the absolute centre for the church, education, administration and trade, brought about protests from Malmo, Lund and Helsingborg. That was why the Danish princess Ulrika Eleonora was met with a welcome, which clearly showed a great deal of unrest about the projected centralization of Landskrona, when she came to Helsingborg in connection with her marriage to Carl XI. Johan Gyllenstjerna accompanied the princess and they were greeted with he following welcome speech:
Although Landskrona´s rise seems to result in the ruin of Helsingborg, we cannot imagine that the place and the city, which heaven with the first steps of your royal highness has made happy, is heading for ruin, but instead to the eternal glory of your royal highness receive even better privileges than before, so that it may flourish into an immortal moment for now and forever, and bear witness to all descendants of the blessed gem that your royal highness have given Sweden and Denmark.
The death of Johan Gyllenstjerna in 1680 made other cities in Scania breathe a sigh of relief, inasmuch as nobody longer thought of Landskrona as a large city. In 1682 Carl XI decided to demolish the fortifications and Landskrona was to be turned into an open town and thus not become the capital of Scania. The Swedish state instead concentrated on enlarging the new harbour in Karlskrona. City planning, labour and building materials were moved to Karlskrona instead. Thus Landskrona remained a small town, ravaged by war and the plague, just like other Scanian towns.
The Role of the Church
After the death of Gyllenstjerna in 1680 Rutger von Ascheberg was appointed general governor and he continued the swedification process, although somewhat milder. The Swedish administration succeeded in persuading the Swedish aristocracy to waive the Danish (Scanian) laws and privileges in 1683. Thus the Malmo Recess was abolished and the independence of Scania removed. The Swedish middle classes and the clergy had already accepted Swedish law.
The church played an important part in a goal-oriented swedification process at grass-roots level. In the Swedish congregations Swedish priests were appointed before Danish or pro-Danish priests. Swedish textbooks, Swedish liturgy and Swedish-speaking church services were introduced. The bishop of Lund, Canutus Hahn, led this process.
But it is important to emphasize that this was not only because Scania was to adjust to a united Sweden. At that time there was a strong local self-determination in Sweden, which involved different dioceses had catechisms and hymnbooks of their own. Sweden was not a homogeneous country. Gotland and Finland, for instance, were not more Swedish than Scania. The number of diocese hymnbooks had been increased by the middle of the 17th century, and there was a great number of different hymnbooks. Bible publications were characterized by great diversity and many unauthorized editions had been published. This is why there was a demand for uniform religious books.
Sweden had its first authorized hymnbook in 1695, a revised variant of the one that the preacher Jesper Svedberg had presented the previous year. In the same way the country had a state bible in 1703, the so-called Carl XII´s bible, which was worked out under the management of Haqvin Spegel. Furthermore a new church law was introduced in 1683; a catechism in 1689 and an altar book in 1693. All in all great efforts were made to create uniformity in the church in Sweden. Scania was part of these efforts, but not only in this area.
Certainly there was special matter in Scania and that was the language. The introduction of Swedish as the reading and written language was carried through with new ABC books and the above mentioned religious publications, but it was also supported by the fact that the reading skills of the Scanian peasants were quite bad and Swedish became the first reading language for many of them.
The Scanian farmers had support and certain tax relieves and in that way the Scanian farmers did not feel more ill-treated under Swedish rule than they did under Danish rule. Furthermore a certain distrust in some towns had resulted from the lootings and ravaging by Danish soldiers during the Scanian war. Skanør, Trellborg, Ystad and Simrishamn on the south coast were particularly damaged.
A mixture of threats, promises, punishment and reward helped to introduce Swedish law, Swedish privileges, Swedish church customs and Swedish reading language relatively fast in Scania. It also contributed to the fact that only few Scanians participated in the war on the Danish side in the war 1709-10.
The swedification, which was carried through in the end of 17th century and in the beginning of the 18th century, was about creating a more uniform Sweden with concurrent laws, church services and language, but these efforts did not only concern Scania. It was not a question of a new patriotism. It was still the village and town community that created solidarity. The Scanians, just as other Swedes first experienced a sense of patriotism, when nationalism broke through in the 19th century. And it was then nationalist monuments, like the Magnus Stenbock statue in Helsingborg were set up. Perhaps the term adjustment is better than “swedification”.