In a perfect world, in a parallel universe separated from ours by an unimaginable and unbridgeable gulf, there, if only in my imagination, exists our species’ doppelgänger. The only difference between that species and ours is that when it evolved to acquire what we so quaintly call intelligence, it used that intelligence to figure out a way of getting along with each other so there was no need for war. One day, I might invent a religion based on those parallel-universe aliens. Too bad L. Ron Hubbard is not around to help me work out the details.
Unfortunately, that’s not what happened in our universe. I don’t need to tell you that here have been wars; lots of wars; lots of big, brutal wars. And what would wars be without militaries to fight them? And, given humanity’s long history of militaries, it’s not surprising that there are museums around the world to, in some cases, celebrate and, in other cases, merely chronicle the histories of those armies. The Army Museum in Stockholm is one of those museums. It mostly chronicles, but there is some national pride on display as well.
You might not be able to see it in the accompanying picture above, but when I entered the courtyard in front of the Army Museum I was confronted with a tightly-packed row of cannons facing me. I didn’t think that was the most welcoming of gestures, but I assumed they were not loaded, so, in my mind all was good. It was, after all, an army museum.
I don’t know whether my assumption was accurate, but at least the canons didn’t fire at me. So there’s that.
I’ve been to a few military museums in other cities and the Stockholm Army Museum was much like them. The exhibits covered the period from about 1500 through to modern day. There were displays and explanatory text to tell me about the wars that Sweden has been involved in and what military life was like through the ages. I also got to see some of the uniforms that soldiers then and now wore and some of their weapons.
As I walked through the museum, I saw various tableaux populated with mannequins dressed as soldiers and, in some cases their hangers on. In addition to the multi-peopled tableaus, there were also some solitary military mannequins standing around out of context.
The tableaux depicted military scenes, both at battle and in camp. If only history were like that; battlefields populated with only mannequins, while the real people were off doing other things like visiting a museum, walking in a park, reading a book, taking in a movie, sharing a meal with friends or having sex. Although, with the way things are headed with drones and robots, I guess we’re getting closer to that. But I was hoping for something a little less lethal than military drones and robots.
But enough about my fantasies.
One thing I learned that brought forth a string of giggles from me was that Queen Louisa Ulrika of Prussia planned a coup d’état against the ineffectual King of Sweden. That’s not the part that was giggle-worthy. Here’s the part that was: The Queen was aided in her attempt by members of the Cap Party. They wanted to overthrow the party then in power, the Hat Party. I kid you not.
I couldn’t help wondering if hats and caps were the only headgear represented in Swedish politics at the time—and where one draws the line between what is a hat and what is a cap. Did fedoras get their own party or were they represented by hats in general and, if so, why did caps get their own party? And what about crowns? Being a monarchy, I would have assumed that crowns would have had political representation. Then again, maybe they didn’t need it because of the divine right of kings (and, presumably, queens).
And why just chapeaux? Did the Jacket Party also vie against the Vest, Cardigan and Pullover Parties?
But I digress into abject silliness. Let’s move on, shall we?
For some reason that is unknown to me, unlike the rest of the museum, many of the post-World War II exhibits didn’t have any accompanying English text. I don’t speak or read Swedish, so I can only guess as to what the text was talking about. My first guess was meatballs, but, based on my dining experiences in Stockholm, an obsession with meatballs is probably a false Swedish stereotype. Besides, what do meatballs have to do with the army?
While I was there, the museum had a temporary exhibit on Raoul Wallenberg, a Swede. I don’t know when the Wallenberg exhibit was scheduled to leave, but I suspect that if you can find the exhibit dates on Google and look at the date on this post you’ll see just how remiss I’ve been about writing up posts about my trip to Stockholm. (Spoiler: many months.)
The exhibit explored Wallenberg’s life and his mission to save Jews from the Nazis, particularly in Hungary. Wallenberg never returned from that mission. He disappeared on January 16, 1945. There have been rumours, but Wallenberg’s fate after that has never known for certain by most of the world, other than that he definitely was arrested by Soviets.
Over the years, the Soviets offered four different versions of what happened to Wallenberg. There is evidence that contradicts all of those versions. That includes the most recent version, a 2001 report that said he was executed in 1947. (People claim to have been in contact with Wallenberg after 1947.)
Estimates on how many people Wallenberg helped to escape vary between 20,000 and 30,000.
I thought that the Wallenberg exhibit was the best part of the museum, but the fact that I’m ethnically Jewish might have had something to do with that.
Oh, about all of that peacenik nonsense I spouted at the top? Forget it. Another thing I learned at the museum is that Sweden has not fought a war in 200 years. It serves on peacekeeping missions and keeps weapons for use on those missions and just in case, but it hasn’t fought a war in that time. Keep up the good work, Sweden. However, if the Nazis should come back and you want to stay out of that war too, several Wallenbergs would be helpful. Thanks.