Blekinge County (K)
Population (2001): 150 374 Area: 2 941 km2
Blekinge County is identical with the old province of Blekinge, which belonged to Denmark until 1658. It comprises five municipalities: Karlshamn, Karlskrona, Olofström, Ronneby and Sölvesborg. Karlskrona, with about 30,000 inhabitants, is the county town.
Landscape and environment
The most easterly part of Blekinge is a flat sandstone plain which crops out at the east coast and is a continuation of the sedimentary bedrock of the Kalmar coast. The south coast of Blekinge, on the other hand, is more hilly, a joint-valley landscape that runs out into an archipelago. In the far west, in Listerlandet, are the remains of limestone layers from the Cretaceous period. This coastal landscape, facing the sun, has one of the mildest climates in Sweden and is famous for its luxuriant broadleaved forests with many oak and beech trees. Here are the oldest settlements in the county. The inland is a flat plain of primeval bedrock that continues into Smá-land, where conifers take over. Rivers run down from Smáland to the Blekinge coast. The river
Mörrumsán is famous for its salmon.
Industry and commerce
In the old days Blekinge was a rather poor province on the periphery of the Danish, later the Swedish, kingdom. Farming and fishing provided a livelihood for a fairly small population. A few small medieval market towns on the coast, in particular Ronneby, handled the trade from Smáland. There was a dramatic change when Sweden founded the naval base of Karlskrona in the Blekinge archipelago in the 1680s, with extensive facilities such as shipyards. Somewhat earlier Karlshamn was founded, which, thanks to its good harbour, soon took over the shipping trade from Ronneby.
The peasant farmers often combined agriculture with fishing in the old days. In the 19th century the stone industry was established, supplying stone for street paving and house facades in Germany, for example. A few small iron mills, paper mills and other proto-industries created a weak foundation for the industrial revolution in the 20th century that was to make Blekinge
one of Sweden’s most industrialised counties. During the late 19th century many people emigrated to America, but also to Denmark and Germany.
The level of employment in manufacturing (29%) is today far higher than the national average. The percentage for agriculture and forestry (6%) is also fairly high, while the service sector is below the national average, and is predominantly within the public sector. In 1988 two government departments were moved from Stockholm to Karlskrona.
Both the number of farms and the area under cultivation have decreased dramatically in recent decades. Agriculture in Blekinge has chosen to specialise: fruit, berries and vegetables are important crops. Another speciality is fur farming. Twenty-five per cent of Sweden’s mink is produced in Listerlandet, which is, however, threatened by sabotage by animal rights activists. Fishing has become an industry in its own right, with trawling in the Baltic and fish factories in new fishing ports. After the mid-20th century industry expanded rapidly as various large industrial groups established factories. Among them are Volvo Cars chassis factory at Olofström, Karls-krona Shipyard, Ericsson at Karls-krona, Nokia at Brakne-Hoby and Ronneby, Karlshamn Oil and IFO Sanitar at Mörrum.
Blekinge is off the main lines of communication in Sweden. The coastal railway line from Karlskrona to Malmö has poor capacity and the road links northwards from the coast are not in good condition. On the other hand, the deep-water harbours at Karlskrona and Karlshamn are great assets.
Culture, tourism and recreation
Blekinge has some of Sweden’s best preserved remains of an old agrarian landscape with meadows, pollarded trees, juniper bushes, pastures surrounded by stone walls, and hamlets. There are few large estates. The best preserved town from the Danish period is at Sölvesborg, while the centre of Karlskrona has wooden buildings from several centuries and is a model of Baroque town-planning. The way in which the town spreads across some 30 islands gives it a country-like urban landscape. The naval buildings, more and more of which are being opened up to the public, contain cultural relics from the time the town was founded and later.
In the old country districts behind the coast stand churches from the 12th century. The ruins of the fortified Danish town of Kris-tianopel on the east coast of Blekinge are a monument to the time of repeated wars between Sweden and Denmark. This town was destroyed by the Swedes and is now an idyllic seaside resort with tumbledown walls. Despite its attractive countryside, archipelago and cultural monuments, tourism plays a fairly unimportant role in Blekinge. One reason is the extensive prohibited area round the naval base of Karlskrona, which prevents access to large parts of the archipelago.
The opening of ferry traffic between Karlskrona and ports in Poland and Lithuania has helped to develop contacts with these countries. IT centres at Ronneby Brunn and Karlskrona have integrated the region into the international network.