Picture stone.  Bunge Museum.  Northern Gotland.  Sweden

A Brief History

of Gotland

by Eve Andersson

Phone booth in Storatorget.  Visby, Gotland.  Sweden

Home : Travel : Sweden : Gotland History

Gotland is a 3,140 km2 island in Baltic sea, about 90 km from the Swedish coast and 130 km from the Estonian coast. It currently has about 58,000 inhabitants (20,000 in the main city, Visby). Gotland is a beautiful island and it receives about 500,000 visitors each year. Farming is also prevalent on the island. There are many small businesses; in fact, 99% of the businesses on Gotland employ fewer than 20 people. I noticed, while strolling the narrow medieval streets of Visby, an internet startup company among the more traditional shops, etc.

It has been inhabited by people for somewhere between 8000 and 6000 years (depending on the source). Farming was the first business to develop and, by the Viking Age, Gotland was a major trade center in Northern Europe. About half of the 20,000 Viking Age silver coins found in Sweden were discovered on Gotland.

Gotland, initially an independent sovereign entity, fell under German rule in 1398, Danish rule in 1408, Swedish rule in 1645, Danish rule again in 1676, and ended up as part of Sweden in 1679, with a brief 23-day occupation by the Russians in 1808.

Interestingly, when Gotland fell under Swedish rule, it did so as the result of peace treaties, whereas other countries' means of obtaining it were generally not peaceful.

Santa Karin church ruin.  Visby, Gotland. The world-wide plague of Web developers has not escaped Gotland. The city wall near Snackgardsporten.  Visby, Gotland.

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