Union of Kalmar

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Kalmar, Union of


an association of the kingdoms of Denmark, Norway (including Iceland), and Sweden (including Finland) in a personal union under the Danish kings, definitively shaped in 1397 in the city of Kalmar, Sweden. In the broad sense the term refers to the period 1397–1523 in Scandinavian history, when all the Scandinavian countries were at least formally in a union.

The formation of the union was in the interests of many big feudal lords of Denmark and Sweden (those who owned estates in all three kingdoms), as well as the trading cities. It was necessary for the struggle against German economic and political expansion. In the 14th century the Hanseatic League took over almost all the foreign and even part of the domestic trade of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden; German feudal lords penetrated Scandinavia; and in 1363 the German duke Albrecht (Albert) of Mecklenburg became king of Sweden and tried to gain the throne of Denmark.

The initiator of the union was Queen Margaret of Denmark. In 1380, Norway, which was economically dependent upon Denmark, joined Denmark in a personal union under the Danish queen; and in 1389, for her aid to the Swedish feudal lords in the struggle against Albrecht, Margaret was also recognized as ruler of Sweden. Nevertheless, this de facto union of the three kingdoms was unstable, since the royal power in Denmark and Sweden was elective and not hereditary. Margaret succeeded in designating as her heir in each of the three kingdoms her grand-nephew, Eric of Pomerania. In 1397 in Kalmar at a congress of the feudal lords of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, Eric was crowned king of all three kingdoms and was recognized as Margaret’s coruler.

Within the framework of the Union of Kalmar, Denmark, which was economically and politically more developed, attempted to subordinate Sweden and Norway completely. The foreign policy of the union was conducted in the interests of Denmark. Danes were appointed to the highest ecclesiastical positions in Sweden and Norway, and Danish and German nobles acquired estates there. The increase in taxes caused by the wars of the Danish kings on behalf of their dynastic interests gave rise to dissatisfaction among the peasants and burghers and also part of the nobility. A general anti-Danish uprising led by Engelbrekt Engelbrektsson (1434–36) drove the Danish nobles from Sweden, although the union was not abrogated. In 1448, after the election of Karl Knutsson as the Swedish king, Sweden virtually left the union. The attempts of the Danish kings to subordinate Sweden again, culminating in the “Stockholm Bloodbath” of 1520, led to a new uprising and to the final liquidation of the tripartite union in 1523, when Gustavus I Vasa was elected king of Sweden. Norway, which was weaker than Sweden, could not maintain its independence. In 1537 it was deprived of its status as a kingdom and proclaimed a province of Denmark, a status it retained until 1814.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.