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The History of Dalarna


12 000 years ago, the ice of the last European Ice Age began to melt. 3 000 years later the ice had vanished from Dalarna. At this point the southern and south-eastern parts of the province were covered by the sea, in the shape of a bay. About 5 000 BC people came walking or using primitive canoes along the shores to Dalarna. They were met by a cold climate with only sparse vegetation in the summer. Wolves, bears and reindeer roamed the land. In the sea there were fish, seals and whales. The people were nomads and hunters.

Gradually the climate improved and the land rose slowly out of the sea. About 4 000 years ago this made more extensive agriculture and stockfarming possible.

At the time of the Vikings, the population increased and many people settled down around the lake Siljan and the lake Runn. These people were manufacturers of iron.

In the 14th century the people of the province left paganism for Christianity. We know this thanks to the ancient "Dalalagen" , a set of laws from the first part of the 14th century.

The people of Dalarna have a long tradition of opposing authorities mistreating them. The importance of their mines producing copper, iron and silver made the people of Dalarna a political force to reckon with from the 13th century and onwards.

The export to the Hanseatic league, the Hansa, a confederation of cities in northern Germany, was very important to Dalarna. The Hansa was as independent as any state and it controlled the trade of Northern Europe. The Union of Kalmar (1397) which united the three kingdoms of Sweden, Denmark and Norway, aimed at breaking the Hanseatic control. The people of Dalarna did not appreciate the Union of Kalmar. There were high taxes and the violations of the people were carried out by the king's bailiffs. The men in Dalarna rose in rebellion against the union king, Erik of Pomerania in 1434. As their leader they chose the tough old miner Engelbrekt Engelbrektsson. The army of rebellions grew stronger as Engelbrekt moved south and among others they were joined by the peasants of Norrland. Finally the rebellion had spread to most of the country and Erik of Pomerania was deposed. Engelbrekt was made commander-in-chief over all the nobility of Sweden, only to be murdered two years later. Swedish and Danish kings succeeded each other on the throne and several rebellions took place.

In the year of 1471 an army, consisting partly of the men from Dalarna, under the leadership of the family Sture defeated the Danish king Christian at Brunkeberg. Christian's army consisted of Danes and Swedes in favour of the Union. Once again those in favour of close trade relations with the Hansa had triumphed.

In 1520 a huge and well-equipped Danish army invaded Sweden. After having ascended the throne, the Danish king, Christian the second, had his people to execute all the important men in Sweden. They were present in Stockholm to witness the crowning and by executing them, Christian tried to wipe out every important man liable of opposing him, once and for all.

The young nobleman Gustav Eriksson Vasa, related to the family Sture, lost his father and two uncles in the event known as "The Bloodbath of Stockholm". He had been imprisoned in Denmark. In 1519 he escaped and after one year in Lubeck he returned to Sweden to help to defend Stockholm. He never got as far as the capital, on the way the news of the executions reached him.

Danish soldiers were hunting and killing every possible leader of the rebellion. Gustav fled from the Danes and made his way to Dalarna, which had been the centre of resistance before.

There are many stories of his journey in the province. What is true or false is hard to tell but it must have been an adventurous and dramatic journey. On Christmas day in 1520 he addressed the people of Mora, telling them of the Danish victories and the Bloodbath of Stockholm. However, he met no support and set out for Norway to live in exile.

Next day the men of Mora changed their minds and two men set off and caught him up in Sälen, 56 miles from Mora. This event is commemorated every year when thousands of men and women from all over the world ski the 90 kilometres between Sälen and Mora in the skiing competition Vasaloppet. Back in Mora, Gustav Vasa was made Captain of Dalarna. His army, reinforced by mercenaries, won the war against the Danes and in 1523 Gustav Vasa was elected King of Sweden.

The end of 16th and the 17th centuries were difficult years for the people. Bad crops, famine and wars in Europe weighed heavily on the people of Dalarna. What had been a sideline, the production of handicraft, became an important part of the livelihood. There is for example the skin of Malung, the wooden horses and the knives of Mora. This tradition is still very much aliv.

The last big revolt occurred in 1743. Failure of the crops, high taxes and a lost war to the Russians in 1741, made 5 000 men march to the capital. They were defeated, many were killed and several executed.

Between 1821 and 1925, 44 533 people emigrated to America. Beside poverty and famine, the wish to freely practice one's religion made people leave the country, as the Mormons of By and the Baptists from Orsa.

In the 20th century the province has undergone a lot of changes. Thousands of jobs have been lost in the mining industry. Although this industry is not dying, its structure is changing.

The people of Dalarna are holding on to their heritage and traditions. However, they are moving towards the future with energy and efforts into new areas.

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