Sweden (Sverige in Swedish) is the third largest country in the EU and the second most sparsely populated after Finland. Most of the land is flat, apart from the north-west area bordering Norway. 78% of the country is occupied by forests and 9% by Sweden's 95,700 lakes. Among them, Vänern is the largest lake in Europe outside Russia, with an area over twice the size of Luxembourg.
Sweden has one of the highest GDP per capita in the world. It is also most equal countries in terms of income, as well as one of the world's freest, most democratic and least corrupted nations.
Some of the best known Swedish companies include Electrolux, Ericsson, Hennes & Mauritz, IKEA, Scania, Securitas, and Volvo. Sweden is also a major producer of timber and iron ore. The national drinks are akvavit (a spirit flavoured with spices and herbs, especially caraway or dill) and vodka, Absolut Vodka being the leading Swedish brand.
Famous people from Sweden include (chronologically): the botanist Carl Linnaeus, the astronomer Anders Celsius, the chemist Alfred Nobel, the Nobel Prize-winning author Selma Lagerlöf, the film director Ingmar Bergman, the actresses Greta Garbo and Ingrid Bergman, the actor Stellan Skarsgård, the cross-country skier Gunde Svan, the tennis players Björn Borg, Mats Wilander and Stefan Edberg.
In ancient times Sweden was home to three main Germanic tribes: the Suiones (or Svíars in Old Norse, after whom the modern country was named), the Geats (or Gautars) and the Gutes (or Gutars). The two latter, living in what is now Götaland (southern Sweden) and the island Gotland, migrated to Eastern Europe, as far as the Black Sea, then invaded the Roman Empire from the 3rd century CE. They were known to history as the Goths. The Visigoths would found a kingdom in southern France and across most of Iberia. The Ostrogoths ruled over the Italian peninsula and the Dinaric Alps from 493 to 553.
From th 8th and 11th centuries, Swedish Vikings travelled east and south, going to Finland, the Baltic countries, Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, the Black Sea and further as far as Baghdad. They founded the Kievan Rus, the medieval precursor of the Russian state, and what would become Belarus and Ukraine.
The ancient lands of Svealand (Sweden) and Gothia survived as two separate nations well into the Middle Ages. It is unclear when the two merged into a single entity. From the 12th century, the Swedes started colonising Finland, which would become an integral part of Sweden until 1809.
The whole of Scandinavia was unified under a single monarch under the Kalmar Union (1397-1523). The union broke up when Gustav Vasa (r. 1523-60) became king of Sweden. It is under his reign that Sweden converted to Lutheranism. From 1561 to 1721, Sweden conquered Karelia and most of modern Estonia and Latvia, as well as parts of northern Germany (notably Western Pomerania, Wismar and Bremen). This was the prosperous era of the Swedish Empire. During this period the Swedes established a few (short-lived) overseas colonies, such as the Swedish Gold Coast (in present-day Ghana and Togo) and New Sweden (comprising parts of the present-day U.S. states of Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.).
The eastern half of Sweden, present-day Finland, was lost to Russia in 1809. The last war in which Sweden was directly involved was in 1814, when Sweden by military means forced Norway into a personal union. Since then Sweden has been at peace and has avoided war.