1905. The War that never took place

Originally published in: 

Historical context

The conflicts between Norway and Sweden that ended in Norway becoming an independent state in 1905 has its roots in the Napoleonic wars. Great Britain was the main enemy of Napoleon and in 1807 their preemptive attack on the Danish navy in 1807 forced Denmark, and their colony Norway, to take side with Napoleon. He forced Denmark-Norway to declare war on Sweden in 1808. Due to the British naval blockade the communication between Copenhagen and Norway became extremely difficult and a provisional government was established in the Norwegian capital Christiania (now Oslo). This first national government after hundreds of years under Danish rule became the first seed for a nationalistic movement in Norway. When Napoleon lost the war Sweden was given to Norway as agreed by the Treaty of Kiel in January 1814. This was not popular in Norway and resulted in a growing movement for independence.

Led by the Danish prince Christian Friedrich Norway declared their independence. A constitutional committee presented a new Constitution based on the tripartite system by Montesquieu and with the right to vote for 40% of men above the age of 25 (Myhre, 2012:16). The new constitution was accepted on May 17. of 1814.

Sweden then launched a war on Norway and could soon control most of the territory. Norway had no other choice than accept a very unpopular union. Sweden agreed to have a separate Norwegian constitution but the king of Sweden was king of Norway as well. Foreign policy should be under Swedish control.

Most Norwegians were against having a union with Sweden. The demand for complete independence grew over time and by the end of the century the nationalistic movement in Norway was a force the Swedish monarch could not ignore.

One important issue for the Norwegian Parliament from the 1880s and onwards was to establish separate consular services and eventually a separate complete foreign service for Norway. In Stockholm this was seen as a serious threat against the union and was absolutely unacceptable. In these years the views on the union divided the Swedish population, but the vast majority of the elite was strong against “letting Norway go” (Stråth, 2005:251-397). In Norway the opposition to the union grew and the first links with friendly voices in Sweden were taken.

We know that Sweden made plans for “a military campaign westwards” already in 1893; it was later revised and updated 1903 (Sørensen, 2005:24).

In 1895 the Swedish King announced that if necessary he would use military force to keep Norway a part of the union. That changed the attitudes with Høyre (the Conservative Party) in Norway. They had until then argued that Norway needed the union as a strong military defense against attacks. Sweden had at this time a much more powerful military force than Norway, but they decided to strengthen their capacity to be prepared for a Norwegian show of muscles. The Swedish forces had more than 200 000 soldiers in arms, Norway about 10% of that.

Norway reacted quickly and decided soon for a massive armament. The Parliament agreed on the Day of Independence (May 17.) to buy four new coastal defense ship and twenty-two torpedo boats. The cost of the coastal defense ships alone was 19 million krones (20% of the total military budget). Old fortresses along the border were upgraded and several new ones built. Concrete plans were made for a military confrontation. Both sides prepared for war, but the asymmetric power relations stayed the same. The military budget of Norway was about 1/3 of the Swedish one; in 1890 and in 1905 (Berg, 2005:226).

There is no doubt that both sides prepared for a war. A report by “the History of War Departement” within the Swedish Defense Staff from 1958 documents in detail the huge efforts on both sides to be ready for war (Försvarsstaben, 1958).

The main argument for Swedish mobilization in Sweden in the 1890s was not a Norwegian threat, but rather the fear of a Russian invasion. At the same time there was no lack of voices arguing for using military means to keep Norway within the union. Berg argues that with a political order to attack/defend the armies on both sides were able, equipped and ready to start a war (Berg, 2005). But after the introduction of a conscripted army in 1901 there were no guarantees that all the soldiers would follow orders. Many socialist soldiers argued that the guns should not be pointed at their brothers in West, indicating that they saw the option of an armed uprising within the Swedish army as unacceptable.

Spying activities were common on either side of the border and both countries made concrete war preparations (Ottosen, 2005, Terjesen, 2001:116-138, Gäfvert, 2005, Børresen, 2004). Admiral Børresen was Chief of the Navy Staff of the Skagerak Squadron and he was in favor of a preemptive attack on the Swedish Navy (Børresen, 2005). XXX

Encyclopedia Britannica from 1911 states that ”war generally follows the secession of a member of a union” (Chrisholm, 1911). Stuart Burch argues that war was a real possibility (Burch, 2005:3). An indication of how tense the situation was is the facts that when the negotiations in Karlstad were close to a break down for four days in September 1905, Sweden sent marines to the border town Strömstad and the Norwegians responded with mobilizing troops.

The Norwegian admiral Urban Jacob Rasmus Børresen was in charge of the Norwegian fleet in Skagerak 1905. Although he had friendly views on the union and felt loyal to the King Oscar II, he did not hesitate to follow the orders Norwegian government in 1905. Børresen was a follower of the american sea-force ideologist Alfred Mahan and hence eager to attack the Swedish ships in open sea. He came into a conflict with his more reluctant and careful Commander in Chief, Admiral Sparre. When Sparre demanded that all decisions should be accepted by him, Børresen refused to leave his operative control of the fleet (Børresen, 2005). This is one more indication of how close to an open war the situation was in 1905.

The ten years from 1895 to 1905 were dominated by armaments, negotiations, provocations, public discussions, and protests. More on this will be described in the sub-chapters below.

In spring 1905 the Norwegian parliament decided to establish their own consular institutions and when the Swedish King refused to sanction the law, the confrontation made the split a fact (Weibull, 1962). The Norwegian government resigned, but the Swedish King refused to accept their resignation. On June 7. the Norwegian Parliament declared:

“Since all the members of the cabinet have resigned their positions; since His Majesty the King has declared his inability to obtain for the country a new government; and since the constitutional monarchy has ceased to exist, the Storting hereby authorizes the cabinet that resigned today to exercise the powers held by the King in accordance with the Constitution of Norway and relevant laws – with the amendments necessitated by the dissolution of the union with Sweden under one King, resulting from the fact that the King no longer functions as a Norwegian King.”

Norway was de facto an independent state. But still not recognized by their former colonial power Sweden. This was not a legal decision according to International law.

The reactions in Sweden were quick and forceful. Sweden threatened with military means and the Swedish parliament demanded a referendum in Norway prior to an approval of the dissolution of the union. This shows the two main Swedish sides in this conflict: One wanted to defend the union with military means and the other could accept the let Norway become completely independent. Norway had discussed a referendum and were already preparing it. That the side who could accept an end of the union won in the end is a direct result of the active anti-war activities in Sweden as well as in Norway. They argued that the use of war to solve the conflict was unacceptable.

The independent movement in 1814 was mainly run by an elite of powerful individuals. In 1905 the struggle for a sovereign state was based on a broad popular nonviolent movement and democratically elected politicians in the parliament actively supporting the demand for a self-governing state. The “war-option” were never ruled out, but the opposition to use of military force was strong enough in both states to avoid such a scenario.

These are the main reasons why the conflict between Norway and Sweden 1905 is included in this study and the following chapters will explain who the main actors were, what sort or arguments they used, what they did, how their campaign was met, and the end-result.

Main actors opposing a war

Workers movement

The Social democratic parties in Sweden and Norway had their differences and conflicts, but in sum they cooperated in the struggle for Norwegian independence. The Norwegian Social Democratic party was more nationalistic than their sisters and brothers in Sweden. In Sweden the international solidarity perspective was more in the forefront of the workers movement, while the conservative parties had a stronger nationalistic attitude (Hagen, 2002). In general the political parties in Sweden had different views on the union with Norway and how to react on the Norwegian nationalistic movement developing. In Sweden it was for many reasons a less important issue in Sweden than in Norway.

As most socialist parties in these years the Social Democrats were anti-militarists and in favor of international solidarity of the working class. The Swedish Social Democrats changed their view on the union in the last years of the 19th century. Leading women in the party, like Kata Dahlström, and the youth branch had for many years argued that the party should support the Norwegian demand to dissolve the union. Dahlström agitated actively that they should refuse to participate in a military attack on Norway.

Party leader Hjalmar Branting, in his speech on May 1. 1895 said:

Should the horrible be a reality, and the Swedish guns ordered to march westwards, then the responsible  also must consider that someone rooted in the popular will, may let a bullet without order prevent that thousands of brothers and relatives will become victims of military violence.

Everyone understood that he had the killing of Charles XII in mind. The bullet that killed him during an attack on Norway in 1718 might well have come from a Swedish gun. Branting was accused of encouraging the killing of the King and of “incitement to violence”. The Supreme Court reduced three months in prison to a fine of 300 Swedish kronor. The money was collected among workers and peace-friends in Norway and Sweden (Terjesen, 2001:185).

Led by Hjalmar Branting, the party opposed a war with Norway on their congress 1905. When the crises peaked Branting coined the slogan “Hands off Norway, King”.  Under the leadership of Branting the Social Democrats organized resistance to a call-up of reserves and a threatened with a general strike against a war if an attack on Norway was ordered (Store Norske Leksikon On-line). For his work in 1905 Branting shared the Nobel Peace Prize 1921 with the Norwegian secretary-general of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, Christian Lange.

Swedish MP, founder of Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society, (SPAAS) and receiver of Nobel Peace Prize in 1908, Klas Pontus Arnoldson, published several books and articles against wars as ways to handle conflicts. Some of them were translated to Norwegian and got a lot of attention. The poet and winner of the Nobel Price in Literature, Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson wrote an introduction to Law – Not War. An English edition got an introduction from the Bishop of Durham (Magnusson, 1988:124-25).  Bjørnson and Arnoldson discussed the war issue in several personal letters. Both were important public figures and voiced strong opposition to the war-rhetoric. Arnoldson and SPAAS argued in favor of an international Arbitration process as an alternative to the use of armies. In 1895 Arnoldson published an anonymous pamphlet with the title “Peace with Norway, even if the union crack”

(Magnusson, 1988:147). Arnoldson was one of many voices against those who wanted to keep the union with military means.

Women against war

From 1895 onwards a growing number of women took part in the public debate about union with Norway and the saber-rattling. Kata Dahlström in the Social Democratic Party was an important and early voice; many more followed. Inspired by Bertha von Suttner and her book “Die Waffen nieder” from 1857 the opposition to war as a way to solve conflicts had got a lot of support also in the radically liberal parts of women’s movement in Scandinavia. One of the front figures was the author and public figure Ellen Key. In 1898 she wrote a letter to her friend Anna Bugge Wicksell: “I am sick, in the inner of my soul, of all this war rhetoric” and “We need to start building opinion for a divorce without war – never in eternity will we agree – I believe” (Hammar, 2004:11). Key followed the public debate about the union closely and soon she took part in it herself. Her debate in newspapers with Verner von Heidenstam engaged many and influenced many more to follow the arguments.

The collapse of the union, June 7. 1905, came, as well as the threatening war, as a surprise to most Swedes. During the following weeks Sweden was in a state of national turbulence. At least, this was how many Swedish women experienced the situation. The Conservatives condemned the Norwegian betrayal and looked with bitterness upon those Swedes taking a stand for the Norwegians. Among the Liberals there was ideological disorder since many had a hard time to overlook the way the Norwegians broke off the union. Only the socialists fully supported the Norwegians. The women found the atmosphere alarming. The most active tried to calm the warmongers through public debate. Celebrities like Ellen Key, Queen Sophia, Selma Lagerlöf and Kata Dalström, as well as less prominent women, took position in the conflict. The sources tell of indignation and dismay, but there are no proofs of any woman taking a stand for war against Norway. Even women who in public expressed disapproval against the breaking-up did recommend a peaceful solution. The socialistic women stood unanimous behind the decision of the men to break up the union in a peaceful way. Among the Liberal women there were many working for avoiding a war. There are reasons to believe that Swedish women contributed to the peaceful solution of the Swedish-Norwegian conflict in 1905. (Hammar, 2005:99)


Norwegian intellectuals, authors, and artists were almost unified in favor of autonomy for Norway. Fritjof Nansen, Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson (Due-Nielsen, 2005:96), Gina Krogh (Blom, 2005:124-125), XXX

Other important actors

Not all important groups within the Swedish and Norwegian societies had a strong consensus on the issue of a union or sovereignty. The main ones are shortly commented on below.

High rank officers

Both the Norwegian and Swedish high rank militaries were loyal to their respective government. If the order were given to launch a military attack they would most probably have followed such an order and used their skills to the best of their ability. At the same time they had relative good relations with officers from “the other” nation/state. On the Norwegian side it was the conflict between two above mentioned marine officers Børresen and Sparre who could have led to an open confrontation with the Swedish marine. Børresen said: “We cannot launch a war without fighting” (Børresen and Kristiansen, 2005:106). The attitudes and actions by the hot headed Børresen could easily have spiraled out of control (Børresen, 2005, Børresen, 2004).

Another issue is to what degree they could trust their soldiers. As mentioned above the Socialist Youths and  other parts of the workers movement had advanced plans for a general strike against a war and massive campaigns for refusal to follow orders among the soldiers. To what degree this threat was a serious worry for officers is difficult to know; but of course it was discussed among them. If it was seen as “a problem to handle” or they seriously feared soldiers would “turned the guns against their commanders” have not been possible to confirm.

The Church

The Swedish and Norwegian churches had very little contact during the years of the union (Thorkildsen, 2005:181). Every since the reformation the Swedish church had been more conservative than their sister churches in Denmark and Norway. In general the churches played a minor role in the conflict, but their huge and wide network all over the country played an important role for spreading and building opinions. One important exception is worth mentioning: Christopher Bruun; priest and leading figure of the Norwegian Folkhigh school movement. He was a strong believer in the union as an important alliance against Russia. Only one priest was elected to Stortinget 1903. This is an indication of the lack of interest for politics within the church (Thorkildsen, 2005:182). Bishop Bang in Oslo was told by a friend on June 6th that he should go to Stortinget the next day; an important announcement was to be expected. But Bang decided to go to his office as normal and get some paperwork done. This is one more illustrative example of the lack of interest from the church (Thorkildsen, 2005:183).

The King

King Oscar of Sweden and his prince Charles had different views on the Union with Norway. Prince Charles was more open to give Norway the independence they so obviously wanted, XXX (More to follow)

Position and demands

Right wing and other nationalistic politicians in Sweden were all strongly against letting Norway get its independence. They saw the growing nationalistic movement in Norway as a threat against the union and Sweden’s right to have Norway as a part of its territory. Every step in the direction of more autonomy was seen as a weakness for the former “European super-power”. The Swedish elite included few voices that supported the Norwegian demands, the exceptions were some brave women.

Part of the Swedish aristocracy, the King included, were worried about Norway becoming a republic if they got their independence. Russia, England, and Germany had the same worries (Åselius, 2005).

Sweden changed their laws to make the use of military means an option. The option of war was discussed frequently in Swedish newspapers from 1890 onwards. The Parliament doubled the “emergency war-budget” for King Oscar II and the general staff started with detailed planning of a possible war. The liberal foreign minister Carl Lewenhaupt was replaced with the ultra conservative Earl Ludvig Douglas (Stråth, 2005:349).

The conservative Swedish newspaper Vårt Land (Our Country) published an editorial December 20. 1897 expressing worries about the future of the union. Three days later an editorial had the heading: “War or Peace with Norway?” It was openly hostile and disagreed with the attitudes among Norwegians that most European states supported Norway in this conflict. The editorial argued that it was time to “tell the Norwegians that Sweden would not for ever continue with the policy of concessions”.

In the Swedish Parliament there were regularly proposals for economical support to Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society (SPAAS) and their activities.  They never got anything, but in 1903 a minority of 90 out of 230 MPs in the Second Chamber supported a proposal for 2 500 kronor (Fogelström, 1971:91). This is a pretty good indication of the division line within the parliament.

Strategies and actions

Public discussions

Several books were published by leading representatives of the broad peace movement. Klas Pontus Arnoldson published his Pax Mundi – A Concise Account Of The Progress of The Movement For Peace By Means of Arbitration, Neutralization, International Law And Disarmament in1892 (Arnoldson, 1892). Many of those who actively opposed the war in the Swedish public discussions were editors of newspapers and other well known figures. The editors used their role to agitate against the war and promote good relations with Norway. Outside their editorial columns they frequently gave speeches at meetings. In 1895 the editor  of Öresundsposten, Axel Svensson, talked to an audience of 800 in Hälsingborg. The editor of Karlstadstidningen, Mauritz Hellberg, talked on several meetings in Värmland and all over the country similar meetings were held (Fogelström, 1971:68-105).

Ungsocialisterna (“The Youth Socialists”) with their journals Fram and Brand were antimilitarists and worked hand in hand with other parts of the workers movement for a peaceful settlement with Norway (Sørensen, 2005:26). From 1903 to 1906 Ungsocialisterna grew from seven clubs with around 450 members to 300-400 clubs with between 14,000 and 15,000 members. By the end of 1906 it numbered some 25,000, with a large number of local organizations (Liebknecht, 1973). At their congress 1905 the possible war with Norway was the most discussed topic. They reacted strongly against the right wing politicians and their arguments to force Norway with military means in their publications.

Sveriges Kvinnliga Fredsförening (“The Swedish Peace Association for Women”) published the journal Ned Med Vapnen (“Down with the Arms”) and in an issue 1897 they had an appeal against the ongoing armament signed by around fifty very well respected and well know women (Fogelström, 1971:74-75).

Most of the Swedish peace movement was not, as their Norwegian sisters and brothers, actively against the union, but they argued for respect and against the use of violence (Fogelström, 1971:76).

Swedish peace activists expanded their activities to the international arena; relations to Norway being one main focus in addition to the relations to Russia and Finland. They worked hard to have an impact on the many conventions established to regulate international relations and warfare (Jus in Bello and Jus Ad Bellum). Their main demand was use arbitration and not when states were in conflict, and the relations to the union-partner Norway was of course central. In 1899 a group of Swedes sent a letter to Leo Tolstoy and asked him to argue for the inclusion of the conditions and terms for the conscientious objectors and the ongoing discussions at the Haag conference (Fogelström, 1971:87-88).

In summer 1904 the fifth Nordic Peace Meeting was held in Copenhagen. They argued for including a new subject in all obligatory schools; “Peace teaching” or “Pacilogi” as it was called. The agreement on arbitration signed between Denmark and Holland was used as an example of what should be signed among all Nordic states as well. Swedish representatives were also participating at a Peace Conference in Boston, US (Fogelström, 1971:92-93).


SPAAS organized numerous demonstrations against a war with Norway. At the May 1. demonstrations in Stockholm 1905 the Stockholm branch of SPAAS participated with around 1000 members and a huge banner “Peace with Norway! Justice to Norway”. More than 30 000 participated altogether (Fogelström, 1971:100).

SPAAS invited to “Nordic Peace Meeting” in Stockholm 1895. Solidarity with brothers and sisters in other countries were the main message from the meeting. Many newspapers criticized SPAAS for being too agreeable to the Norwegian nationalists who wanted an end to the union (Fogelström, 1971:70-71).

During the years up to 1905 the peace movement had close and good relations to the workers movement and the Social Democrats with their leader Hjalmar Branting in particular (Fogelström, 1971:69).

Soldiers strikes and refusal to do military service

Ungsocialisterna published a text called “Down with Arms” in which they were actively promoting the idea of a general strike against war. After printing and distributing 100.000 copies the editor, Zeth Höglund, got six months in prison for mutiny. While condemned and imprisoned by the Swedish ruling class as a dangerous rebel, Höglund was saluted by others. The German socialist Karl Liebknecht described him as a hero in his book Militarism and Anti-Militarism (Liebknecht, 1973).

Sweden introduced conscription in 1901 and this can been seen as an important part of general armament efforts (Ericson Wolke, 2004:272, Wolke, 1999). Ungsocialisterna agitated against conscription and many of them were sent to prison several times for refusing to follow orders (Fernström, 1950:95-110).

The activity level was high the last two years prior to 1905. In spring 1904 the Youth Socialists printed 20 000 copies of an appeal to soldiers (Fernström, 1950:98). In May 1904 Brand is illustrated with the famous and strongly anti-militaristic paintings of the recently deceased Vasili Verestechagins (Fernström, 1950:100). At their 1905 congress, the Youth Socialists accepted with a huge majority to expand their agitation against military conscription (Fernström, 1950:106). The clubs of Youths Socialists in Stockholm published a manifesto, “Refusal of War Service”, which included an appeal to collect food and other needs to the prisoners (Fernström, 1950:107).

Not all those who opposed the military refused to be soldiers. Ivar Söderholm writes in Brand about how they organized the Socialists Youths opposition at the Army Infantry regiment in Dalarna. They had their meeting in secret out on the shooting-range. Many of them refused to follow orders and some times they did follow orders, but slowly and with reluctance. Close to 400 joined the organization and later more than 100 were identified as “rebels” by the officers. They got relatively mild punishments (Fernström, 1950:109-110).

The Youth Socialists in Hälsingborg published and distributed  5 000 copies of a pamphlet called Revelj (Reveille in English) to soldiers (Fernström, 1950:112).

Norwegian Parliament agreed to unilateral dissolve the union

The Norwegian Parliament, Stortinget, met on July 7th and voted united in favor of dissolving the union unilaterally. The main argument was that King Oscar II did not accepted to sanction the decision to have a separate Norwegian Consular Service. This was a very provocative act and many regard these days as the peak of the conflict. Very few were informed in advance and many was taken by surprise. The state church were used as an important channel for informing the people about the decision. The following Sunday a declaration from the Parliament was read in all churches and the priests were ordered to celebrate the event with “the pure flag”and nationalistic songs (Thorkildsen, 2005).


The Swedish Parliament demanded that a referendum must take place and to show the unity and strength in the population the Norwegian Parliament decided to “ask the people”. A referendum took place on August 13. 1905.  Participation was 85,4 %. 371 911 votes were counted; three quarter of them form outside the cities. Of the total number of votes 3519 was cancelled, mainly from the cities (Nielsen, 1906:442). All men above the age of 25 had the right to participate and the result was 368 208 (99.95%) in favor of dissolving the union and 184 (0.05%) against. This proved to be a very strong argument. No one could any longer doubt the will of the Norwegian people. It is one of the most lopsided referenda in history. Many Swedes saw these figures as a result of fraud; they refused to believe that the opposition to the union was that massive. No fraud was documented.

In 1905 only men above the age of 25 had the right to vote. Landskvindestemmeretsforeningen (“Women’s National Association for the Right to Vote”) wrote a letter to the Norwegian Parliament and asked to get the right to vote. Their request were turned down with the arguments that they did not have the right to vote in national elections, that there were no national records of all the women in Norway, and it would be too time consuming to organize an inclusion of them. Landskvindestemmeretsforeningen had at this point 2000 members and 40 local branches. Several leading figures wanted to accept the arguments about lack of time, but members from several local groups started to collect signatures without any national coordination. Landskvindestemmeretsforeningen then decided to take the lead and organize the collection of signatures and promote and organize the referendum. The chairperson was Fredrikke Marie Qvam was one out of several that changed their minds from opposing a referendum to take a central part in the organizing of it. This is later regarded as one of Fredrikke Marie Qvam most important political achievements. Other famous women activists in the Association were Elise Welhaven Gunnerson and Marie Kjølseth. Altogether they collected 279 878 signatures for a peaceful dissolution of the union.

This campaign later played an important role in the struggle for universal voting rights in Norway.

Randhi Blehr, chair of Norsk Kvinnesaksforening (The Norwegian Association for Women’s Rights) took an initiative to write a statement of support from all the women’s associations in Norway. The organizing of this was taken on by the Norwegian section of International Council of Women, led by Gina Krogh. At the day of the referendum Gina Krogh handed over to the Government statements and addresses from 565 women’s associations. Prime Minister Løvland thanked the women and said: “The acts of Norwegian women from all over the country is a wonderful endowment to Norwegian history and will for sure contribute to give them the rights they demand.” (Store Norske Leksikon On-line).

The government thereby had confirmation of the dissolution. 85 percent of Norwegian men had cast their votes, but no women as universal suffrage was not extended to women until 1913. Norwegian women however collected 279,878 female signatures in favor of dissolution.

The total population was 2,3 millions in 1905.


One obvious case of repression is imprisonment of those Swedes who refused military service and/or agitated against conscription and war with Norway. Some of these cases are mentioned in the text above. Central is this work were the Socialist Youth Organization and their local branches. In their journal Brand they argued strongly against war with Norway, against conscription, and in favor of a general strike against the war. The first youth who refused this service was the railway worker Josef E. Andersson from Stockholm. He was paid tribute to at the congress 1903. Later the same year Carl August Schönqvist was arrested. He got one month in prison but was later called up again and got two more months in prison in May 1905. Fritiof Larsson got two months hard labour plus two months in prison at a military court. Also in Skåne county Brand reported about more Conscientious Objectors. The organization started to collect money for financial support to the refusers and their families (Fernström, 1950:95-110).

As mentioned earlier some authors of political publications also got fines and imprisonments. Hinke  Bergegren got 50 kronor in fines for this public statement: “If the officers use violence against us, we will use the same means against them”. Albert Jensen was arrested for a pamphlet published by the local branch in Norrköping. It argued strongly against accepting enrollment for military service and was printed in 68 000 copies. Jensen was also accused for a speech he gave in Mjölby. (Fernström, 1950:109).


The result of the referendum in Norway made it very clear what the Norwegians wanted and the Swedish Parliament got a clear answer on their request. The impressive collection of signatures from the women added to the overwhelming result.

One undisputed outcome was the end of the union between Norway and Sweden and Norway’s new status of independent and sovereign state. That was a peaceful solution to a very armed conflict.

After the result of the referendum four delegates from each country met in the Freemason Lodge in Karlstad to negotiate the details on how to proceed. Even during the talks in Karlstad the situation was tense and both sides regarded the possibility of war as a possible outcome. Norway mobilized 22 500 soldiers along the border and in the Navy in mid September. Sweden mobilized in the same way and placed parts of their navy in the city of Strömstad, just a few nautic miles from the border. On September 23 they reached an agreement in the negotiations in Karlstad and signed a deal. Norway had to demolish most of their fortresses and fortifications along the border and Sweden accepted a demilitarized zone on their side of the border. Both states promised to solve all future conflicts through international arbitration. The Swedish monarch Oscar II abdicated as King of Norway and Norway was soon recognized as an independent state by other states. Russia was the first one, but England and others followed soon.

Despite this agreement there is no doubt that the unilateral declaration of independence and de facto separation on June 7th was not according to international law. Some Norwegians argued differently. The Norwegian associate professor Nikolaus Gjelsvik argued in an article 1905 (Gjelsvik, 1905) that the Norwegian decision was a violation of the constitution but that International law had precedence over national laws Norway acted within the legal system. His main argument was that since Sweden had threatened with war against their partner in the union 1895 Norway could act as a sovereign state (Danielsen, 2005). It is not difficult today to understand that the decision by Parliament on June 7th was regarded by most international actors as illegal; Norway, as a state, had committed what could be called revolution, coup d’état, or civil disobedience. The term “revolution” was used in several European newspapers.

Did “the peace movement” prevent a war? The short answer is “yes!”. If we define all those diverse actors and stakeholders that each in their own way worked hard against the outbreak of a war between Norway and Sweden as a “peace movement” then there are no doubts. Without their contribution the warmongers would have won the public debate and Sweden would have used their military forces in an effort to stop the dissolution of the union with Norway.

Counterfactual history writing is an important and valuable process for anyone who want to go deeper into the study of conflicts. The question “what would have happened if…” gives a better understanding of the situation.

If there would have been no one opposing the use of military means against Norway in the years prior to the secession in 1905 it is impossible to imagine that the Swedish political, military, and aristocratic leaders would not have called for war. They had planned for year. Invested enormous amounts in new weaponry, expanded their spying networks and activities, and for more than a decade argued in public that an end to the union would not be acceptable. If no voices had argued against, no activists demonstrated, no workers promoted a general strike against the war, no soldier refused participation, and no women collected signatures for a peaceful end of the conflict; what would have prevented them from doing what they wanted?

Each of the activities carried out to prevent a military confrontation can be sorted in one of the following categories: Important, necessary, sufficient, counterproductive, or irrelevant. Further research is needed to judge each of the actions and campaigns and identify which category they belong to. But there is no doubt that seen as a whole and together they must be seen as at least necessary for preventing the war. Where they sufficient? I have a incline towards seeing them as sufficient, but a deeper analyzing of each of the activities as well as the context is needed to make a well founded judgement.

One set of factors not discussed here are the attitudes and view of the neighboring states and the great European states at the time of the dissolution of the union. They all followed the fall of the union closely, but had main focus on other conflicts. Most activities were seen after the June 7th decision by the Norwegian Parliament. (Åselius, 2005, Jungar, 2005, Due-Nielsen, 2005).



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