Gotland

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Gotland

(gŏt`lənd), Swed. Gotlands län, county (1995 pop. 58,240), 1,225 sq mi (3,173 sq km), SE Sweden, in the Baltic Sea. The county comprises the large island of Gotland and several smaller islands, including Fårön, Gotska Sandön, and Karlsö. VisbyVisby
or Wisby
, city (1990 pop. 20,990), capital of Gotland co., SE Sweden, on Gotland Island and on the Baltic Sea. It is an industrial center and a popular resort and has a modern ice-free port. Manufactures include cement and refined sugar.
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 is the capital. Gotland island is made up of a limestone plateau and has a steep coastline and a few hills. Its climate is temperate, and there is much fertile soil. Cereals, sugar beets, and vegetables are grown, and sheep are raised. Fishing, cement making, and tourism are the main industries. Archaeological remains indicate that Gotland, inhabited since the Stone Age, had wide commercial contacts from early times, especially under the Vikings (9th–11th cent.). In the 12th cent. German merchants settled at Visby, which became one of the chief towns of the Hanseatic LeagueHanseatic League
, mercantile league of medieval German towns. It was amorphous in character; its origin cannot be dated exactly. Originally a Hansa was a company of merchants trading with foreign lands.
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. From the 11th to the 14th cent. Gotland prospered as a major trade center of N Europe, but internal strife between the Hanse merchants and local tradesmen weakened the county. Gotland was conquered by the Swedish king, Magnus I (Magnus Ladulas) in 1280, and later was taken by Waldemar IV of Denmark in 1361 and by the Hanseatic League in 1370. Soon after, Gotland became the base of wide-ranging pirates, and it gradually declined in importance. By the Treaty of Stettin in 1570, Gotland passed under Danish rule; by the Peace of Brömsebro in 1645 it was returned to Sweden. The county has many fine churches and ruined castles.

Gotland

 

the largest island in the Baltic Sea; part of Sweden. Chief town and port, Visby. Population, 54,100 (1970); area, 2,960 sq km. The surface is a plateau whose highest elevation is 83 m, and the island is made up primarily of Silurian limestones. Its shores are steep, particularly in the northwest. Karst forms of relief are widespread. The climate is temperate and marine, and the average annual precipitation is more than 500 mm. Coniferous (mostly spruce) and broad-leaved forests occupy 44 percent of the land area. There are peat bogs. The main agricultural crops are rye, oats, sugar beets, flax, and potatoes. Sheep raising, mining limestone, cement, food-processing industries, and tourism are important.

At the beginning of the Common Era Gotland was settled by Germanic tribes. (The name “Gotland” is possibly derived from “Goths.”) During the Middle Ages Gotland and the town Visby were important transit points for Baltic trade. Although nominally belonging to Sweden, Gotland was in fact an independent republic with its own municipal law. In 1361 it was occupied and devastated by the Danes. Under the Peace of Brömsebro of 1645 it was returned to Sweden. A naval battle between German and Russian warships took place off Gotland on July 19 (Aug. 2). 1915, during World War I.

Gotland

, Gothland, Gottland
an island in the Baltic Sea, off the SE coast of Sweden: important trading centre since the Bronze Age; long disputed between Sweden and Denmark, finally becoming Swedish in 1645; tourism and agriculture now important. Capital: Visby. Pop.: (including associated islands) 57 677 (2004 est.). Area: 3140 sq. km (1212 sq. miles)