Erövringar inom egna gränser. Ideologiska rötter till svensk neutralitet.


  • Mattias Warg


Charles XIII of Sweden (1809–1818), Swedish Revolution of 1809, neutrality, republicanism, liberalism


It is the ideological roots of the ambition ‘to reconquer Finland within Sweden’s borders’, a poetic expression of a long-standing Swedish foreign policy, that this article sets out to find. The phrase was coined by the poet Esaias Tegnér in 1812 and combines a sense of economic optimism and a coming to terms with the loss of Finland to Russia. The literature generally connects this figure of speech and the policy it encapsulates with the power politics pursued by crown prince Charles John, formerly Napoleon’s marshal Bernadotte, who in 1812 allied with Russia’s tsar Alexander. Charles John’s brand of realpolitik is often contrasted with the supposed revanchism of the government of 1809–1810. In fact, the idea of ‘winning back lost possessions within our own dominions’ was launched as an official government policy in a speech by Charles XIII, given to the Diet on 27 September 1809, immediately after the Treaty of Fredrikshamn (aka the Treaty of Hamina), and almost a full year before Bernadotte was designated his successor. The king’s speech exhibits forms of early modern republican political culture, and is consistent with the ‘neutral’ or ‘English’ ethos of the Swedish government of 1809. This government, contrary to its ostensible revanchism, displayed considerable ambivalence about its long-term strategy in international relations. The leading advocates of the neutral line were the government ministers Georg Adlersparre and Baltzar Bogislaus von Platen. Furthermore, there is evidence that the political culture and agenda of Charles XIII’s speech originated in an existing rationale, embraced and articulated with varying degrees of subtlety in the context of criticism of the autocracies of Gustav III and Gustav IV Adolf. The earliest known example of a formulation that matches Charles XIII’s and Tegnér’s, literally as well as politically, dates to 1790, when Gudmund Jöran Adlerbeth, an author and subsequently a minister in the 1809 government, spoke of ‘conquests within one’s own borders’.The conclusion is that this figure of speech, speaking as it does to an ethos of neutrality, in fact preceded the Russian invasion of Finland, rose to political prominence through the events provoked by the war, and finally adapted to its outcome.