Our journey around Sweden continues in Jönköping, on the southern shores of Lake Vättern, in the province of Småland. The municipality has just under 90,000 residents, making it Sweden’s 9th most populous city.
Jönköping goes back to the Middle Ages. The “köping” ending comes from the Swedish word to shop or buy, so its name means that Jönköping started as a market town or trading center. It received its city charter in 1284, from King Magnus Ladulås, who largely ruled what was then Sweden from the nearby island of Visingsö in Lake Vättern.
For many years Jönköping and the surrounding parts of Småland have been known as the Swedish Bible Belt, with a strong concentration of members of Protestant denominations outside the what was once the state Lutheran Church of Sweden.
The religious-oriented Christian Democrat Party has its stronghold in Jönköping, where it typically attracts 10 to 15 percent of the vote.
In fact the leader who took the Christian Democrats to parliament for the first time, in 1991, Alf Svensson, is from Jönköping. Having left the party leadership and the Swedish parliament, he became the party’s sole member of the European Parliament
Historically a major industry in Jönköping has been the production of matchsticks by Swedish Match, which by 1926 was the world’s largest match manufacturer.
Since then the company has branched out into tobacco products, including the moist snuff known as “snus”, which is banned in all of the European Union outside of Sweden.
There’s a very modern side to Jönköping in the form of Dreamhack, the world’s largest computer festival and local network gathering held every year. It includes competitions for the best players in Starcraft and other games.
The late 19th century artist John Bauer was from Jönköping, famous for his many drawings of elves and trolls.
Dag Hammarskjöld, the second Secretary General of the United Nations , was also born in Jönköping. The year 2005 marked the centenary of Hammarskjöld’s birth.
According to former UN Under Secretary General Brian Urquhart the Swedish diplomat’s contributions included taking a rather moribund organization and making UN peacekeeping what it is today.
Sadly Hammarskjöld died while mediating in the Congo conflict in 1961.
Also coming from Jönköping is Agneta Fältskog, of ABBA fame.