Sweden Facts
Sweden Facts

73 Interesting Facts about Sweden

By Jill Bartholomew, Junior Writer
Published February 6, 2017
  • Despite being a military power in the 17th century and one of the world’s largest producers of weapons, Sweden has not participated in any war for almost two centuries, including both world wars.[16]
  • Around 2,000 years ago, the Svear people gave Sweden its name. In their language, svear meant “us” and rike meant “kingdom.” So, Sverige, the modern Swedish name of the country, means “Our Kingdom.”[16]
  • With a tax rate of 51.4% of GDP, Swedes are one of the most highly taxed populations in the world. Ironically, they are generally happy to pay a high tax rate, and the Swedish word for tax is skatt, or “treasure.”[16]
  • Swedish parents are entitled to 480 days of paid parental leave—and of those, 60 days are reserved for the father. In 2012, dads used 24% of the total parental leave.[9]
  • Sweden has had seven Nobel Prize winners in Literature, including Selma Lagerlöf, who was the first woman to win the prize in 1909. Her birthplace at Mårbacka is a national shrine.[11]
  • Interesting Swedish Meatball Facts
    An average of 1,836,000 meatballs are eaten daily in all of Swedish company Ikea’s 313 stores worldwide
  • An average of 1,836,000 meatballs are eaten daily in all of Ikea’s 313 stores worldwide. Ikea was founded in Sweden in 1943 by Ingvar Kamprad.[11]
  • The Swedish three-point seatbelt is claimed to have saved 1 million lives. It was launched by Volvo in 1959 and is found in 1 billion vehicles worldwide.[11]
  • Since 1901, the Nobel Prize has been awarded 567 times. It is the legacy of Alfred Nobel, who invented dynamite in 1866. The Nobel Prizes have been awarded every year in Stockholm, Sweden, since 1901. That first year, each prize was worth 150,000 kronor. In 2010, it had increased to 10 million kronor (currently about US$1.2 million).[2]
  • Between 300,000 and 400,000 moose (Alces alces) roam the Swedish woods. Over 100,000 are shot during the annual hunt, and about 250,000 people participate in the hunt. The moose is also considered the most dangerous animal in Sweden. Every year, they cause approximately 6,000 road accidents.[11]
  • The pacemaker, ultrasound, safety match, astronomical lens, marine propeller, refrigerator, and computer mouse are all famous items that were invented in Sweden or by Swedes who weren’t living in Sweden.[12]
  • One of the most popular flavors of ice cream in Sweden is salmiakki, or salty licorice, which can also be coal black in color.[15]
  • Sweden has won 625.5 Olympics medals in total. 475.5 are from the Summer Olympics (one gold is shared with Denmark), and 150 are from the Winter Olympics.[11]
  • Sweden is the third largest country in the European Union in area, yet it has the second lowest population density (23.5 people per square km).[11]
  • According to Sveriges Körförbund (Swedish Choir Union), roughly 600,000 Swedes sing in choirs, and the union represents 500 choirs. This gives Sweden the highest number of choirs per capita in the world.[11]
  • Swedish Doctor of Technology Martin Hedström and his team at Lund University are responsible for inventing the HIV tracker, a sensitive device used for mapping out and detecting the spread of HIV and other viruses. The device can detect extremely low concentrations of poisons, viruses, or other substances in liquids, which makes it a potentially valuable tool for fighting bioterrorism as well.[11]
  • Interesting ABBA Fact
    ABBA has pledged never to reunite because they want to be remembered "as they were" (Beeld en Geluidwiki / Creative Commons)
  • ABBA is the fourth-best selling music act in history, after Elvis Presley, the Beatles, and Michael Jackson. The group has sold over 375 million records worldwide. At one point, ABBA was second only to Volvo as Sweden’s biggest export earner. The group broke up in 1983.[8]
  • The Swedish term lagom doesn’t have an English equivalent. It is not just a word, it is a concept that means “just right” or “adequate” and it can be used for just about anything and every situation.[11]
  • Sweden legalized gay sex in 1944, and in 1972, it was the first country in the world to allow for a legal change of gender identity.[11]
  • Wasps actually kill more people directly than any other animal in Sweden, about one per year.[11]
  • There are 260,000 reindeer in Sweden. They eat mushrooms, lichen, grass, and herbs. Suovas is a word in the language of the indigenous Sámi people that refers to smoked reindeer meat fillets. Reindeer milk tastes sweet and looks like melted ice cream.[11]
  • Sweden has 95,700 lakes larger than 100 meters by 100 meters. That equals 9% of Sweden’s total area.[11]
  • Sweden was the first country in the world to ban the smacking of children in 1979. Since then, 35 other countries have followed suit.[11]
  • Sweden has about 20,000 Sámi living in the country today. Since 1993, this indigenous people have had their own parliament. In 2000, the Swedish government officially recognized Sámi as an official language.[11]
  • Halloween has been celebrated in Sweden only since the 1990s and it is celebrated on Maundy (Holy) Thursday just before Easter. Children and teenagers mainly dress up for fancy parties and ghost parties, light lanterns, and venture forth to scare their neighbors and trick-or-treat.[16]
  • The Minecraft world-building video game was Swedish programmer Markus “Notch” Persson’s one-man hobby project. It is basically a digital version of Lego. Minecraft contributed to Persson’s company Mojang’s 2013 record profit of 325 million kronor (approx. US$39.1 million). Mojang means “gadget” in Swedish.[11]
  • St. Lucia is a nationally celebrated saint in Sweden, despite the fact her tradition can be traced back to both St. Lucia of Syracuse, a martyr who died in A.D. 304, and to the Swedish legend of Lucia as Adam’s first wife, who supposedly consorted with the devil and gave birth to invisible demons. Little girls dress up like her on the night of December 13th, and there are baked goods and a nationally televised Lucia competition devoted to her.[12]
  • Football, or soccer, is by far the biggest organized sport in Sweden. Runner up is innebandy, or a type of floor hockey played indoors, which attracts 200,000 individuals to gyms all over Sweden during winter.[11]
  • Interesting Swedish Soccer Fact
    Football, or soccer, is the most popular organized sport in Sweden (Epsilon / Stringer / Getty Images)

  • The Swedish company King is behind the app game Candy Crush. It has been downloaded almost 500 million times and counting. That’s almost one game for every person in the United States and Brazil. King was named “Sweden’s Best Employer” in a 2013 survey.[11]
  • Sweden has one of the highest life expectancies in the world, 74 years for men and 80 years for women, and one of the lowest birthrates (1.7 children per woman).[16]
  • Sweden has the highest number of McDonald’s restaurants per capita in Europe, with 227 restaurants. Only the United States has more McDonald’s per capita in the world.[1]
  • Sweden is home to the Ericsson Globe—originally the Stockholm Globe Arena—which is the largest spherical building in the world at 85 m (279 ft.) high and a diameter of 110 m (328 ft.). It also hosts the largest scale model of the solar system in the world at 1:20,000,000.[13]
  • The Swedish word gift can mean married or poison.[12]
  • In terms of geography, Kiruna, Sweden—located north of the Arctic Circle—is the northernmost town in Sweden and one of the largest northernmost cities in the world. The city’s leaders have declared that the city’s limits are the same as the borders of the township, so it contains 5,000 square miles (13,000 square km).[2]
  • From the 1850s to the 1930s, 1.5 million of Sweden’s population of 3.5 million immigrated to North America.[4]
  • Born in Småland in 1701, Carl von Linné, née Carl Linnaeus, is Sweden’s most revered scientist. He is best known for the introduction of his binomial classification, a two-part nomenclature that enabled plants and animals to be consistently named and classified into families. Linnaeus himself invented the word Homo sapiens.[10]
  • Sweden’s Uppsala University is home to a famous 4th-century silver Bible that some consider the world’s most valuable book. The incomplete version of the New Testament in ancient Gothic language was written on parchment with silver and gold ink.[16]
  • Interesting Sweden Facts
    There are around 250 wolves in Sweden
  • There are around 250 wolves (Canis lupus) in Sweden. They are protected and may not be killed unless they repeatedly attack humans or property. Swedish wolves mainly eat moose, and one family can kill about 120 moose each year. A wolf’s howl can be heard over 10 kilometers (6 miles) away.[11]
  • Stockholm, the capital of Sweden, has been called the “Venice of the North” because it is a city built around water with 12 islands and 42 bridges.[16]
  • The Viking age had its beginnings in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden in the 9th century A.D., and it was a Viking who settled Iceland. Swedish Vikings mainly sailed east across the Baltic Sea. They landed on the coast of what is now Lithuania and rolled their long ships to the Dnieper and Volga Rivers. From there, they sailed to the Black and Caspian Seas and as far as Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul) and even northern Persia (modern-day Iran). They tried to sack Constantinople twice, in 860 and 941, but failed both times.[16]
  • Sweden has played a leading role in the United Nations. One of the most respected and effective leaders since World War II was Swedish diplomat Dag Hammarskjöld, the second secretary general of the U.N.[16]
  • A traditional Swedish drink is glögg, which is the result of mulled wine being poured over aquavit (a clear, caraway-flavored liquor), and then set aflame.[16]
  • In Sweden, the traditional Christmas visitor is the nisse or gnome, a short, good-humored sprite with a long beard and a tasseled red cap. Swedes believe he is thousands of years old. On Christmas Eve, they leave him bowls of porridge on their doorsteps. Santa Claus has become popular now, though, with Swedish children, and they write to him at his “home” in Lapland.[16]
  • The famous Swedish smörgåsbord was once a peasant custom where whole villages would gather at the end of the summer to celebrate the harvest with roast game; boiled potatoes and turnips; fresh, smoked, or pickled fish; meatballs; pancakes; and soups. Today the term refers to a meal made up of many different dishes, similar to a buffet, where diners choose what they want to eat.[16]
  • Sweden’s first coin was struck in the late 10th century by King Olof Skötkonung and is still on display in the Royal Coin Cabinet. Also featured is Queen Kristina’s coin from 1644, which weighs 19.7 kg (43 lb.) and may be the world’s heaviest coin.[2]
  • Sweden’s Astrid Lindgren wrote around 100 children’s books, which have been translated into 74 languages, making her the 9th most read children’s author in the world. Publishers originally rejected her first book about Pippi Longstocking, but she went on to win a children’s book competition in 1945. Pippi Longstocking soon won the hearts of children worldwide. After her death in 2002, the government created the world’s largest prize for children’s literature in Lindgren’s name.[2]
  • No other athletics arena can compare with Stockholm’s Olympiastadion (Olympic Stadium) when it comes to world records. Eleven world records were set there in the 1912 Olympics, including American gold medalist Ted Meredith’s time of 1 min., 51.9 sec, in the 800m event. The last word record set there was Wilson Kipketer’s 1997 time of 1 min., 41.73 sec. over the same distance. In total, 83 world records have been set inside the stadium; London is second with 68 and Los Angeles is third with 66.[2]
  • Interesting Ice Hotel Fact
    Guests checking into the world’s first ice hotel in Jukkasjarvi, Sweden, are issued thermal jumpsuits upon checking in to survive interior temperatures as low as -8 degrees F (-22 degrees C)
  • The world’s first ice hotel was built in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden, in the 1980s by architect Yngve Bergqvist. The hotel has 60 rooms and is carved out of 4,000 tons of densely packed snow and ice with occupancy available between December and April. Guests are issued thermal jumpsuits of “beaver nylon” upon check-in, and their air-lock cuffs help the wearers survive the interior temperatures as low as -8° F (-22° C).[14]
  • Aquavit is a liquor of about 40% alcohol by volume enjoyed in Sweden and all of Scandinavia. Its name comes from aqua vitae, which is Latin for “water of life.” It is distilled from potatoes or grains and flavored with herbs such as caraway seeds, cumin, dill, fennel, or coriander.[3]
  • Sweden’s oldest glassworks is Kosta Glasbruk. Dating from 1742, it was founded by two former generals, Anders Koskull and Georg Bogislaus Stael von Holstein. Importing glassblowers from Bohemia, their Kosta works pioneered the production of crystal (to qualify for that label, glass must contain at least 24% lead oxide).[3]
  • Walpurgis Night, an old pagan springtime ritual adopted by Christianity, is celebrated with bonfires, partying, and drinking on the night of April 30 in Sweden, Finland, and Estonia.[9]
  • Esrange Space Center is Europe’s only civilian rocket base and a major center of space and climate research. Rocket launches, testing of unmanned aircraft (UAVs), and balloon ascents are all conducted from this Swedish base.[9]
  • Swedish is the official language of Sweden, but the country officially protects Romani, Finnish, Yiddish, Meänkali (a Finnish dialect), and Sámi.[9]
  • The 9-foot- (3-m-) long Viking age rock carving Sigurdsristningen (around A.D. 1000) illustrates the story of Sigurd the Dragon Slayer whose adventures are mentioned in Beowulf and the Icelandic sagas. It is also said that his story inspired Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle and JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.[9]
  • Because of its proximity to the Arctic Circle, Sweden has long, dark winters. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) causes widespread depression among roughly one in five people. SAD is caused by a lack of daylight, which leads to an increase in the production of the sleep-related hormone melatonin, secreted from a gland in the brain.[10]
  • Legendary Hollywood actress and famous Swedish recluse Greta Garbo began her working life at the Hötorget (Haymarket) city square in Stockholm as a sales assistant in the hat section of the PUB department store. She acted in 34 films, all told, and spent most of her life in the United States, dying in New York City in 1990. In 1999, her ashes were returned to Stockholm and buried in the Skogskyrkogården Cemetery after a long legal battle.[10]
  • The Swedish monarchy is one of the oldest in the world. It dates back a thousand years and has included 11 dynasties, with the current one, the House of Bernadotte, ruling the longest. Jean Baptiste Bernadotte was the first of his line on the Swedish throne. He was born in France in 1763 and was named heir to the throne in 1810. He changed his name to Carl XIV Johan. The Swedish royal family is related to all the reigning royal courts of Europe.[16]
  • Interesting Swedish Royalty Fact
    The Swedish monarchy is one of the oldest in the world (Andreas Rentz / Staff / Getty Images)

  • In 2006, IKEA opened its northernmost store in the world in Swedish Haparanda. The IKEA name is likely a combination of founder Ingvar Kamprad’s initials and the farm and village where he grew up. IKEA was first registered in 1943 and now has stores in 40 countries, including Australia (1975), Saudi Arabia (1983), the United States (1985), Great Britain (1987), China (1998), and Russia (2000).[8]
  • The foul-smelling iconic Swedish dish surströmming is thought to have begun off of the northern coast of Sweden. Translated as “fermented Baltic herring,” it is thought to have begun in the 16th century on Ulvon when and where salt was very expensive, so the fish was allowed to ferment instead. Today, the dish is made in flat tins containing a weak salt solution. Over a 4- to 10-week fermentation process, the tins blow up into the shape of soccer balls under the pressure of the odious gasses inside. Restaurants refuse to open the tins indoors because of the lingering stink, similar to an open sewer. The unpleasant job has to be done outside in the open air.[10]
  • Declaring themselves Eurocities, Haparanda, Sweden, and Tornio, Finland, are so close in proximity that they share the same post office. There are even two phone lines in the office, one for calls to Sweden and one for Finland.[10]
  • Virtually every timber structure in Sweden is painted a deep red color. In a climate as severe as Sweden’s, the wood has to be treated with a special red paint. Known as Falu Rodfarg, it is produced in Falun and contains a natural copper preservative.[10]
  • Due to Earth’s uneven orbit, the real Arctic Circle is now 1 km north of the line set at roughly 66° N, about 7 km south of Jokkmokk, Sweden. The real line is creeping northward at a rate of 14–15 cm each year, and it won’t be for another 20.000 years that the movement will stop—by which time the Circle will have reached 68° N and then begin moving south again. The Arctic Circle is the northernmost points along which the sun can be seen on the shortest day of the year.[10]
  • The Åland Islands, although technically Finnish, sport their own flag and culture. It goes back to a decision by the League of Nations decision in 1921 to quash a Swedish–Finnish dispute over sovereignty. Aland took its own flag in 1954 and has been issuing its own stamps since 1984. Swedish is spoken there, while a few residents speak Finnish.[8]
  • The Oresund Bridge is the planet’s longest cable-tied road, and Rail Bridge, measuring 7.8 km from Lernacken (on the Swedish side near Malmö) to the artificial island of Peberholm (Pepper Island) south of Saltholm (Salt Island) in Denmark.[14]
  • Amazing Sweden Fact
    The Oresund Bridge is the planet’s longest cable-tied road

  • On his deathbed, it was discovered that Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte (King Carl IV Johan of Sweden, who reigned for 26 years) had a tattoo that read “Death to Kings.”[8]
  • Famous people of Sámi descent include singer Joni Mitchell and actress Renée Zellweger.[8]
  • Bill Clinton, Bob Hope, and Elvis Presley have all received a bright red painted Dalecarlian, or Dala, horse. The first written reference to the horse comes from the 17th century, when the bishops of Vasteras denounced such horrors as “decks of cards, dice, flutes, dolls, wooden horses, lovers’ ballads, impudent paintings.” The painted horse gained international attention for the first time at the World Exhibition in New York in 1939.[8]
  • The joik, or yoik, is a rhythmic poem or song composed for a specific person, object, or event to remember its innate nature and it is a cornerstone of Sámi cultural identity. The yoiking tradition was revived in the 1960s and is now performed in many ways, including experimental yoik and hard yoik.[8]
  • The Sámi year traditionally has eight seasons, each tied to a period of reindeer herding.[14]
  • The crayfish party has become one of the most typical of Swedish traditions, held on the first Thursday in August. This unusual custom goes back at least 100 years when Swedish authorities permitted crayfish to be caught during only two months out of the year, starting in August. Most of the crayfish served today at these parties do not come from Sweden but from Turkey, Spain, and the U.S., as a crayfish plague almost annihilated the Swedish species in 1907.[5]
  • The Christmas tree tradition in Sweden is a fairly recent one; it was adopted from Germany at the end of the 19th century. Before this, Swedes celebrated with “Christmas straw.” Household members would have to lie on the straw at night, as the beds were reserved for the dead who would come to visit their families on Christmas Eve.[5]
  • Interesting Northern Lights Facts
    The northern lights, or aurora borealis, appear above the Arctic Circle and are visible in Sweden from late September though March
  • The northern lights, or aurora borealis, appear above the Arctic Circle (latitude 66°) and are visible around the equinoxes in late September and March and during the dark of winter in Sweden. These spectacular displays of green-blue shimmering arcs and waves of lights are caused by solar wind, or streams of particles charged by the sun, hitting the atmosphere. The colors are the characteristic hues of different elements when they hit the plasma shield that protects Earth: blue is nitrogen and yellow-green is oxygen.[6]
  • The most famous Swedish sporting event is the Vasaloppet (Vasa race) for cross-country skiers. It is the largest annual cross-country ski race in the world. It takes place on the first Sunday of March with the starting line at Sälen in northern Dalarna province and the goal line at Mora 90 km (55 miles) away. The race traces the route that Gustav Vasa made to escape in order to rally a peasant army in 1521, which then drove out the Danes and caused Vasa to be crowned king. First run in 1922, the race attracts around 14,000 participants annually.[5]
  • Sweden was the first country in the world to introduce standardized time, which was necessary to make understandable train tables.[5]
  • Important Dates[7][8][10][14][16]
    DateEvents
    2000–1500 B.C.The Boat-Axe people invade Sweden and begin trade with nations near the Mediterranean Sea.
    A.D. 70Pliny the Elder describes Scandinavia for the first time in his.
    100Svear tribe becomes rulers of the land who give it the name Svea Rik, or Kingdom of the Svear.
    789Moulay Idriss I founds Fez and establishes the first Moroccan dynasty.
    859Olof Skötkonung becomes the first Swedish king to be baptized as a Christian.
    1156–1160King Eric, later Saint Eric, annexes Finland to Sweden.
    1250Birger Jarl begins the Folkung dynasty, which rules Sweden until 1374.
    1252Birger Jarl founds Stockholm as a fort on Lake Malar.
    1347A royal charter to mine copper at Falun is granted to Stora Kopparberg, the world’s oldest industrial firm.
    1394The Kalmar Union unites Sweden, Norway, and Denmark under the rule of Denmark’s Queen Margaret.
    1434Peasants’ rebellion, led by Engelbreckt Englebrecksson, leads to the establishment of the Riksdag, the first Swedish parliament.
    1477University of Uppsala, Sweden’s first university, is founded.
    1520King Christian II of Denmark executes 80 Swedish noblemen in Stockholm. This is known as the “Stockholm Bloodbath.” King Gustav Vasa flees on skis to Norway.
    1527The Lutheran church becomes Sweden’s official church.
    1521–1523Gustav Vasa drives the Danish armies out of Sweden, dissolves the Kalmar Union, and is crowned King of Sweden.
    1619King Gustavus II Adolphus founds the port city of Gothenburg.
    1638Sweden founds the colony of Nya Sverige (New Sweden) in North America.
    1655Swedish traders establish a trading post on the Gold Coast of Africa.
    1658Sweden wins Halland, Skåne (Scania), and Blekinge from Denmark.
    1718Charles XII dies in battle in Norway. Sweden loses all overseas possessions except Finland.
    1719A new constitution gives more power to Riksdag and limits royal authority.
    1509The Saadians begin their campaign to expel the Europeans.
    1741Carl Linnaeus becomes professor at Uppsala University.
    1772King Gustav III seizes control of the government and rules as an absolute monarch.
    1805–1809Sweden fights in Napoleonic wars and loses Finland to Russia.
    1814Norway becomes Swedish.
    1860Immigration begins to America.
    1867Alfred Nobel invents dynamite.
    1905Norway peacefully gains independence from Sweden.
    1914Outbreak of World War I. Sweden remains neutral.
    1920Sweden joins the League of Nations.
    1939Sweden declares neutrality during World War II and refuses to allow Germans to uses its territory as a transit route for troops.
    1940Germany occupies Denmark and Norway, and Sweden is forced to allow German troops to transit through Sweden to Norway. Sweden becomes a refuge for fleeing Danes and Norwegians, especially Jews.
    1946Sweden joins the United Nations.
    1953Swedish diplomat Dag Hammarskjöld becomes second Secretary General of the United Nations.
    1975Last remaining powers of the monarch are removed, making his duties purely ceremonial.
    1986Prime Minister Olaf Palme is assassinated. Ingvar Carlsson succeeds him as prime minister.
    1994Estonia ferry sinks with loss of 852 lives, Sweden’s worst maritime disaster.
    1995Sweden joins the European Union.
    2000Official opening of a new bridge and tunnel linking Malmö and Copenhagen, which makes travel between the two countries possible in just 15 minutes.
    2003Foreign Minister Anna Lindh dies from stab wounds after being attacked in a Stockholm department store. Voter referendum rejects the Euro.
    2010Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, is taken into custody in Britain after Sweden asks for extradition. Sweden suffers its first suicide bombing by Iraqi-born extremist Taimour Abdulwahab al-Abdaly.
    2011Surgeons in Sweden carry out the world’s first synthetic organ transplant.
References

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2DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Stockholm. London, UK: Dorling Kindersley, 2014.

3Fodor’s Essential Scandinavia. New York, NY: Random House, 2009.

4Gannij, Joan and Fran Parnell. Insight Guide Scandinavia. Singapore: APA Publishing, 2012.

5Kisthinios, Kristina. A Scent of Sweden. Stockholm, Sweden: Bokförlaget Prisma, 2000.

6Lee, Phil et al. The Rough Guide to Scandinavia. London, UK: The Rough Guides, 2009.

7Nordstrom, Byron J. The History of Sweden. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2002.

8Ohlsen, Becky et al. Lonely Planet Sweden. Oakland, CA: Lonely Planet, 2012.

9Porter, Darwin et al. Frommer’s Scandinavia. New York, NY: Frommer’s Books, 2011.

10Proctor, James and Neil Roland. The Rough Guide to Sweden. London, UK: The Rough Guides, 2012.

11Quick Facts.” Sweden.se. Accessed November 20, 2014.

12Silva, Diandra. “27 Things You Might Not Know About Sweden.” Kalorina’s. August 4, 2012. Accessed January 27, 2015.

13Stockholm Globe Arena.” Stockholm.net. 2012. Accessed November 21, 2014.

14Sweden Profile.” BBC News. October 7, 2014. Accessed November 20, 2014.

15World’s Strangest Ice Cream.” Travel + Leisure. Accessed November 21, 2014, 2014.

16Zickgraf, Ralph. Sweden (Major World Nations). Philadelphia, PA: Chelsea House, 1999.

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