The 14th issue of the Revue d’Histoire Nordique arrived today. This RHN is the only French-language journal dealing with the History of the Nordic and Baltic Countries. I am lucky enough to be associated with the review as a member of the editing committee.
This issue deals with “Neutrality and Culture of Peace in Scandinavia, 17th-18th century”. It has been coordinated by Eric Schnakenbourg, from the University of Nantes, a specialist of the modern era in Northern Europe. The table of contents is here.
The Poltava victory was a great misfortune for Russia: it resulted in two centuries of great strain and stress, ruin, the absence of freedom — and war and war again. The Poltava victory spelled salvation for the Swedes. Having lost the appetite for war, the Swedes became the most prosperous and the freest people in Europe.
We are so used to taking pride in our victory over Napoleon that we leave out of account the fact that because of it the emancipation of the serfs did not take place a half-century sooner.
The original text can be found here.
In that quote, Solzhenitsyn certainly demonstrates a better knowledge of Russian than of Swedish history: Sweden’s “spirit of peace” and neutrality (and that’s precisely Nordin’s point) did not develop before the beginning of the 19th century. The 18th century saw the jingoist “Hats” and the more conservative “Caps” (like in Night-cap, Swedish mössorna) fight around Swedish foreign policy, and the country started another conflict with Russia at the end of the century.
But, of course, The Gulag… deals primarily with Russia, and Solzhenitsyn’s quote should be considered in the context of Russia’s relation to its past and to its foreign relations.