Visual History of the World
The Contemporary World
1945 to the present
After World War II, a new
world order came into being in which two superpowers, the United
States and the Soviet Union, played the leading roles. Their
ideological differences led to the arms race of the Cold War and
fears of a global nuclear conflict. The rest of the world was also
drawn into the bipolar bloc system, and very few nations were able
to remain truly non-aligned. The East-West conflict came to an end
in 1990 with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the consequent
downfall of the Eastern Bloc. Since that time, the world has been
driven by the globalization of worldwide economic and political
systems. The world has, however, remained divided: The rich nations
of Europe, North America, and East Asia stand in contrast to the
developing nations of the Third World.
The first moon landing made science-fiction dreams reality in the
Space technology has made considerable progress as the search for
possibilities of using space continues.
see also: United Nations member states -
The Scandinavian states became increasingly integrated into the world
economy after 1945. Sweden and Finland remained politically neutral and
strongly promoted understanding and peace in the world. To facilitate
cooperation, the Scandinavians founded the Nordic Council. They were
involved to varying degrees in the process of European unification. The
Nordic countries, with their state welfare structures, are among the
most prosperous nations of the world.
The European North after 1945: The Commonalities
The plan for a Scandinavian defense alliance failed after 1945, but
Northern Europe came together on a cultural and political level.
Of all the Scandinavian states, only Sweden did not suffer from the
consequences of World War II. After the experience of occupation and
deportation on a massive scale, the Northern European nations
planned their own Scandinavian defense alliance to protect their coasts
and hinterlands from attack. Though this failed in 1949, cooperation on
other levels was intensified.
1 Sweden, Denmark, and Norway studied a
possible customs union and founded the Nordic
Council in 1952; 5 Iceland joined the council in the same year and
4 Finland joined in 1955.
1 Oresund bridge between Denmark and Sweden, which also connects Sweden to
the European mainland
The Icelandic capital Reykjavik, with around 115,000 inhabitants
The senate house, built in 1822,
in the Finnish capital Helsinki
The Nordic Council is a common advisory body to
which representatives are sent by the national parliaments. Its goal is
working to promote cooperation among the Scandinavian states and the
standardization of legislation in economic, social, and cultural areas. In
1971, the Nordic Council of Ministers was added to complement the
committee. Although both are only advisory bodies, they have done much
to promote the close collaboration of the countries. The strong social
democracies in all the states played an essential part in bringing the
political culture and living conditions into line. Due to this political
stability, communism has played hardly any role in political life, except in Finland. There was a strong belief in the social
market economy and the entire North set about building up welfare
states, which are funded by high taxes.
3 Liberalism in the Scandinavian countries led to a greater tolerance
toward 2 alternative lifestyles.
Economic slumps brought on by world
economic crises, among other things, have always been brought under
control by the government. Concern for maintaining their regional
achievements and autonomy has determined the relationship of the
Northern European states to the European Union, to which they are tied
either by treaties.
Pippi Longstocking, the title figure of numerous books by the Swedish
author Astrid Lindgren, embodies the ideals of freedom and an
anti-authoritarian education; movie still
2 Hippy commune in the Danish capital
born November 14, 1907, Vimmerby, Sweden
died January 28, 2002, Stockholm
influential Swedish writer of children’s books.
Lindgren’s great popularity began in 1945 with the creation of Pippi
Långstrump (Pippi Longstocking), the first of several books with Pippi
as a main character. This strangely dressed girl living alone with her
horse and ape, having great wealth and enormous physical strength,
stands totally apart from the conformist demands of everyday life and
incarnates every child’s dream of freedom and power. The Pippi books
also exhibit the infectious humour for which Lindgren is known. Among
the many languages into which the books have been translated are
Japanese, in which Pippi is known as Nagakutsushita-no-Pippi, and
Hebrew, in which she becomes Bilbec Bat-Gerev. English translations
include The Adventures of Pippi Longstocking (a collection of three
Pippi books), The Amazing Pippi Longstocking, Pippi Goes On Board, and
Pippi Goes to the Circus. Thirty-eight feature-length films have been
devoted to Pippi.
An equally popular character is found in Emil i Lönneberga (1963;
Emil in the Soup Tureen), which was followed by a sequel in 1970. Emil
is another uninhibited child of nature depicted in a setting from
Lindgren’s home province around the turn of the century. Other
well-known characters include the children from Bullerbyn, portrayed in
three books from the 1940s and 1950s, and Nils Karlsson-Pyssling (1949),
a poetic tale of a lonely child and his world of imaginary creatures. In
Mio, min Mio (1954; Mio, My Son) and Bröderna Lejonhjärta (1973; The
Brothers Lionheart) Lindgren turned with equal success to the world of
folklore, and in Ronja Rövardotter (1981; Ronia, the Robber’s Daughter),
she let the undaunted Ronja and her friend Birk experience both the
dangers and hardship and the beauty and mystique of an animated forest.
Once again, the author created a source of relief and mutual empowerment
for her young characters and readers alike. Drama and resolution fit
like hand and glove in this adventurous tale about maturation, which
ultimately brings together even the two youngsters’ competing families.
Lindgren received the gold medal of the Swedish Academy in 1971.
The world's largest island belongs to the smallest Scandinavian nation,
Denmark. The United States built military bases on the western coast of
Greenland in 1945, for which a defense treaty was signed with Denmark in
The island gained self-rule in 1979 but remains a Danish
territory. Together with Denmark, Greenland joined the European
Community in 1973, but then left it following a plebiscite in 1985.
A fishing village in Greenland, 1990
Self-governing island dependency of Denmark, in the North
The world’s largest island, it covers 836,330 sq mi (2,166,086
sq km). Population (2005 est.): 57,100. Capital: Nuuk.
Two-thirds of the island lies within the Arctic Circle. It is
dominated by the massive Greenland Ice Sheet. Fishing is central
to the economy; there are also commercial mineral deposits,
including a large gold deposit, as well as offshore oil
exploration. About four-fifths of the population are native
Greenlanders, principally of Inuit (see Eskimo) descent,
residing in coastal areas. The Inuit probably crossed to
northwestern Greenland from mainland North America, along the
islands of the Canadian Arctic, from about 2500 bce to about
1100 ce. The Norwegian Erik the Red visited Greenland in 982;
his son Leif Eriksson introduced Christianity in the 11th
century. The original Norse settlements became extinct in the
15th century, but Greenland was recolonized by Denmark in 1721.
Greenland became part of the Kingdom of Denmark in 1953. Home
rule was established in 1979. At the beginning of the 21st
century, the movement for full independence began to gain
support, as did the belief among many scientists that global
warming was responsible for the accelerated melting of the ice
The European North after 1945: The Differences
Differences among the Nordic states exist in their military ties, their
economic bases, and their relationship to the European Union.
Unlike Norway, in 1945 Denmark did not suffer widespread destruction
as a result of the war. Both nations were able to benefit from the
Marshall Plan program, Norway receiving as much as $35 million,
and both were among the founding members of NATO in 1949. A plan for a
collective military pact between all the Scandinavian nations had to be
abandoned. Iceland and Greenland signed defense agreements with the
United States within the framework of NATO. Sweden and Finland, on the
other hand, decided on neutrality.
7 Norway and Denmark's dose trading
partnership with Great Britain induced them to join the European Free
Trade Association (EFTA) in 1960, but their paths diverged when
it came to membership of the European Community.
King Harald V of Norway and
Queen Margarete II of Denmark
Norwegian capital Oslo, 1997
While Denmark became an
state in 1973 after approval in a referendum, the Norwegian population
rejected membership first in 1972 and again in 1994. Norway is
nevertheless tied to the European Union, which is its main partner in
the European Economic Area (EEA).
Its 10 extensive oil deposits have made
it one of the richest nations on Earth.
Iceland has not joined the European Union in order to protect its
fishing industry. With membership, its fishing grounds would be opened
up to European competition, which would have serious consequences for
the local economy.
The extension of its waters triggered a fishing
dispute in 1973 known as the 6 "Cod War," in which Iceland and Britain
came close to an armed conflict.
A drilling rig in the North Sea oil fields that lie off the Norwegian
6 A British frigate collides with an Icelandic
patrol boat thought to
have destroyed its nets, 1976
Iceland has been a member of EFTA since
1969 and the EEA since 1993.
11 Sweden and Finland have been EU members since 1995, but there exists
much skepticism in both countries regarding the community.
11 The Swedish royal couple, Carl Gustav XVI and
with their children, 2004
nations, in terms of population if not geographical size, they are
afraid of not having their concerns heard. While Finland nonetheless
introduced the euro through the European Economic and Currency Union in
1999, the Swedish population declared itself against the introduction of
the common currency in September 2003. Denmark has also maintained its
Finland and Sweden have both played important roles in overcoming
The first 8 Conference for Security
and Cooperation in Europe met in Finland in July 1973.
The resolutions made there bolstered demands for civil rights around
Eastern Europe, among other things.
Sweden's 12 Dag Hammarskjold
was twice general secretary of the United Nations in the 1950s, and he
was posthumously awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1961 for his numerous
efforts in the cause of peace.
Sweden produced yet another committed foreign diplomat in
Twice prime minister, Palme was involved particularly in
disarmament initiatives and worked as a UN negotiator. His murder on
February 28,1986, was a great shock both nationally and internationally.
8 The Soviet first secretary Leonid Brezhnev at the CSCE summit in
12 Dag Hammarskjold with the Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, 1956
Funeral procession for Olof Palme,
Christian X King of Denmark - Legend
In contrast to the monarchs of Norway and the
Netherlands, who went into exile during the Nazi occupation of their
countries, Christian X remained in his capital throughout the
occupation of Denmark, being to the Danish people a visible symbol of
the national cause. Though his official speeches were often little more
than an echoing of the government's official policy of cooperation with
the occupying forces, this did not prevent him from being seen as a man
of "mental resistance". In spite of his age and the precarious
situation, he took a daily ride on his horse, "Jubilee" through his
city—not accompanied by a groom, let alone by a guard. While
acknowledging greetings from the Danish population, he would studiously
ignore the punctilious salutes of German military personnel.
In 1942, Adolf Hitler sent the king a long
telegram congratulating him on his 72nd birthday. The king's reply
telegram was a mere, Meinen besten Dank. Chr. Rex
(English: My best thanks, King Chr.). This perceived (and
no doubt deliberate) slight greatly outraged Hitler and he immediately
recalled his ambassador from Copenhagen and expelled the Danish
ambassador from Germany. German pressure also resulted in the dismissal
of the government led by Vilhelm Buhl and its replacement with a new
cabinet led by non-party member and veteran diplomat Erik Scavenius,
whom the Germans expected would be more cooperative. After a fall with
his horse on 19 October 1942, he was more or less an invalid for the
rest of his reign. The role he had played in creating the Easter Crisis
of 1920, had greatly reduced his popularity, but his obvious disdain for
the German Wehrmacht, daily rides and the Telegram Crisis had once again
made him popular to the point of being a beloved national symbol.
During the German occupation of Denmark, the
King's daily ride through Copenhagen became a symbol of Danish
sovereignty. This picture was taken on his birthday in 1940. Note that
he is not accompanied by a guard.
In the early 1980s, the International Herald Tribune ran a
full-page advertisement for a war-era commemorative photograph of
Christian X on his horse "Jubilee", wearing a Star of David
on his sleeve. The image echoed a popular tale that claimed the king
wore the symbol as a sign of support for and solidarity with Danish
Jews, who suffered from Nazi persecution during the occupation. (The
story had become well-known partially through its retelling in Leon
Uris's 1958 novel of the founding of Israel, Exodus.)
This attribution of support is apocryphal, however, as the yellow badge
was never introduced in Denmark. It originated in a conversation between
the king and his minister of finance, Vilhelm Buhl, during which
Christian remarked that if the German administration tried to introduce
the symbol of the Star of David in Denmark, "perhaps then we should all
King Christian used to ride through the streets
of Copenhagen unaccompanied while the people stood and waved to him. One
apocryphal story relates that one day, a German soldier remarked to a
young boy that he found it odd that the king would ride with no
bodyguard. The boy reportedly replied, "All of Denmark is his
bodyguard." This story was recounted in Lois Lowry's popular
children's book Number the Stars. The contemporary
patriotic song "Der rider en Konge" (There Rides a King) centres on the
king's rides. In this song, the narrator replies to a foreigner's
inquiry about the king's lack of a guard that "he is our freest man" and
that the king isn't shielded by physical force but that "hearts guard
the king of Denmark".
Another popular legend is the one of the flag
on Amalienborg. The Germans wouldn't let the king fly the Danish flag at
his castle and told him that if it wasn't taken down the Germans would
send a soldier to take it down. The king replied that if that was the
case he would send a Danish soldier to raise it again. The Germans
replied that they would shoot that soldier and the king replied, "that
Danish soldier will be me". And throughout the war the Danish flag flew
A popular way for Danes to display patriotism
and silent resistance to the German occupation was wearing a small
square button with the Danish flag and the crowned insignia of the king.
This symbol was called the Kongemærket (King's Emblem pin).
Yellow star saying juif made mandatory
French Jews during the occupation of France.
Christian X of Denmark
Christian X of Denmark
king of Denmark
born Sept. 26, 1870, Charlottenlund, Den.
died April 20, 1947, Copenhagen
king of Denmark (1912–47) who symbolized the nation’s resistance to the
German occupation during World War II.
The eldest son of the future King Frederick VIII and Louise of Sweden
and Norway, Christian became chief of the royal guard in 1898 and
married Alexandrine of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. Becoming crown prince in
1906, Christian led the opposition to the sale of the Danish West Indies
(now the U.S. Virgin Islands) to the United States, which ultimately
took place in 1917. He assumed the throne on his father’s death in 1912.
Christian attended the first in a series of meetings of Scandinavian
kings during World War I at Malmö in December 1914. In June 1915 he
signed the new constitution that provided for a two-chamber parliament
with equal suffrage for men and women; he also gave his assent to the
federal act of 1918 making Iceland an independent kingdom. In July 1920
he received a warm welcome in North Schleswig, the part of
Schleswig-Holstein ceded to Denmark by Germany under the Treaty of
During World War II, after the German occupation of Denmark began in
1940, Christian rode frequently on horseback through the streets of
Copenhagen, showing that he had not abandoned his claim to national
sovereignty. He rejected the Nazi demand for anti-Jewish legislation in
September 1942 but was forced in May 1943 to condemn Danish sabotage of
munitions works and railways. His speech against the occupation forces
in August 1943, after fighting had broken out between the Germans and
Danish resistance fighters, led to his imprisonment until the end of the
war. He was succeeded on his death by his elder son, who became
in full Dag Hjalmar Agne Carl Hammarskjöld
born July 29, 1905, Jönköping, Swed.
died Sept. 18, 1961, near Ndola, Northern Rhodesia [now Zambia]
Swedish economist and statesman who served as second secretary-general
of the United Nations (1953–61) and enhanced the prestige and
effectiveness of the UN. He was posthumously awarded the Nobel Prize for
Peace in 1961.
The son of Hjalmar Hammarskjöld, prime minister of Sweden (1914–17) and
chairman of the Nobel Prize Foundation (1929–47), Dag Hammarskjöld
studied law and economics at the universities of Uppsala and Stockholm
and taught political economy at Stockholm (1933–36). He then joined the
Swedish civil service as permanent undersecretary in the Ministry of
Finance and subsequently became president of the board of the Bank of
Sweden. From 1947 he served in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In 1951
Hammarskjöld was chosen vice chairman of Sweden’s delegation to the UN
General Assembly, of which he became chairman in 1952. On April 10,
1953, five months after the resignation of Trygve Lie of Norway as
secretary-general, Hammarskjöld was elected to the office for a term of
five years. In September 1957 he was reelected to another five-year
For several years he was most concerned with fighting and threats of
fighting in the Middle East between Israel and the Arab states; he and
the Canadian statesman Lester Pearson participated in the resolution of
the Suez Canal crisis that arose in 1956. Hammarskjöld also played a
prominent role in the 1958 crisis in Lebanon and Jordan.
The Belgian Congo became the independent Republic of the Congo (now
Democratic Republic of the Congo) on June 30, 1960, and Hammarskjöld
sent a UN force to suppress the civil strife that began there soon
afterward. In September 1960 his action was denounced by the Soviet
Union, which demanded that he resign and that the office of
secretary-general be replaced by a three-man board (troika) comprising
representatives of the Western, communist, and neutral nations. Soon
after, while on a peace mission to President Moise Tshombe of the
Congolese province of Katanga, Hammarskjöld was killed in an airplane
As secretary-general, Hammarskjöld is generally thought to have
combined great moral force with subtlety in meeting international
challenges. He insisted on the freedom of the secretary-general to take
emergency action without prior approval by the Security Council or the
General Assembly. He also allayed widespread fears that the UN would be
completely dominated by its chief source of financial sustenance, the
United States. The absence of a major international crisis during the
first three years of his secretaryship enabled him to concentrate on
quietly building public confidence in himself and his office.
prime minister of Sweden
in full Sven Olof Joachim Palme
born Jan. 30, 1927, Stockholm, Swed.
died Feb. 28, 1986, Stockholm
prime minister of Sweden (1969–76, 1982–86), prominent leader of the
Swedish Social Democratic Workers’ Party (Sveriges Socialdemokratiska
Arbetar Partiet), Sweden’s oldest continuing party. He became Sweden’s
best-known international politician.
Born into a wealthy Stockholm family, Palme studied at Kenyon
College, Ohio, U.S. (B.A., 1948), and obtained a law degree from
Stockholm University in 1951. An active member of the Social Democrats
from the early 1950s, Palme became Prime Minister Tage Erlander’s
personal secretary in 1953 and entered the Swedish Parliament in 1958.
Palme joined the Social Democratic government in 1963 as minister
without portfolio. In 1965 he advanced to the post of minister of
communication and in 1967 to the dual post of minister of education and
ecclesiastical affairs. He succeeded Erlander as party secretary and as
prime minister in 1969. Soon afterward his attacks on U.S. war policy in
Vietnam and his acceptance of U.S. Army deserters who sought refuge in
Sweden led to strained relations between his country and the United
States. (He denied the deserters official political refugee status,
however, saying that one could not be a refugee from a free country.)
The 1976 general election resulted in the defeat of the Social
Democrats after 44 years in power. Between terms in office Palme
continued to be active in his party and maintained his strong pacifist
stance. He also had close personal relations with European Social
Democratic politicians such as Bruno Kreisky of Austria and Willy Brandt
of West Germany. He served as president of the Nordic Council from 1979
to 1980, chaired the Independent Commission on Disarmament and Security
in Geneva, and acted as UN special envoy to mediate in the war between
Iran and Iraq.
The nuclear accident in 1979 at Three Mile Island in the United
States had a great impact in Sweden, and Palme contributed to a
referendum (passed in 1980) to remove all nuclear reactors in Sweden.
After being elected prime minister again in 1982, Palme tried to
reinstate socialist economic policies in Sweden, and he continued to be
outspoken on matters of European security. He was assassinated by a
gunman in 1986; his murder remains unsolved.
see also: United Nations member states -