Although having been a military power and spanning about three times its current size during the 17th century, Sweden has not participated in any war in almost two hundred years. Having long remained outside military alliances including both World Wars, the country has a high peace profile, with internationally renowned names such as Raoul Wallenberg, Dag HammarskjÃ¶ld, Olof Palme and Hans Blix. Sweden is a monarchy by constitution, but king Carl XVI Gustaf has no executive power. The Swedish people were Pagans until around the year 1000, then Christened and obedient to the Roman Pope until the 16th century, when the church was reformed to Lutheran-Protestant. Today's Sweden is a secular state with very few church-goers.
Sweden is a developed post-industrial society with an advanced welfare state. The standard of living and life expectancy rank among the highest in the world. Sweden joined the European Union in 1995, but decided by a referendum in 2003 not to commit to the European Monetary Union and the euro currency. Leadership of Sweden has for the larger part of the 20th century been dominated by the Social Democratic Party, which started out at the end of the 19th century as a labor movement. Since the 2006 election, a coalition of center-right liberal/conservative parties hold the power.
Sweden has a strong tradition of being an open, yet discreet country. Citizens sometimes appear to be quite reserved at first, but once they get to know who they are dealing with, they'll be as warm and friendly as you'd wish. Privacy is regarded as a key item and many visitors, for example mega-stars in various lines of trade, have many times realized that they mostly can walk the streets of the cities virtually undisturbed.
Sweden houses the Nobel Prize (http://www.nobel.se/) committee for all the prizes except the peace prize, which is hosted in Oslo, a memento of the Swedish-Norwegian union that was dissolved in 1905.