Photo Credit: Stefanie Nysand

The Swedish Skeptics’ Association has made a decision: Sabaton can keep their award

Author Stefanie Nysand - 16.1.2023

On Tuesday (10 January 2023), the Swedish Skeptics’ Association [“Föreningen Vetenskap och Folkbildning”] announced that their award for “Enlightener Of The Year 2022” [“Årets folkbildare 2022”] would go to the Swedish hard rock band Sabaton. During the same day, the association became aware of a statement of one band member in 2016, which raised the question of whether or not Sabaton could keep the award. The statement is about Russia’s annexation of Crimea. After the band had played a controversial concert on the Crimean peninsula, Sabaton bassist Pär Sundström said a year later, in 2016, in an interview with Sweden Rock Magazine that Crimea was occupied before 2014:

“If you go to Sevastopol, you hardly feel that they feel occupied. Quite the opposite.”

– Pär Sundström

According to Pär Sundström, if one were not there, one might be “tricked” into believing otherwise. In the interview in 2016, he went on to say that “all these years”, the people in Sevastopol “felt like Russians” but were “on the wrong side when the border between the Soviet Union and Ukraine was drawn”.

The Swedish Skeptics’ Association told Sweden’s national public broadcaster SVT that they were not aware of Pär Sundström’s statement when they awarded the “Enlightener Of The Year 2022” prize to Sabaton, and that the association’s board would gather to decide on the new information, and whether Sabaton could keep the award or not.

Now, the Swedish Skeptics’ Association has announced its decision: Sabaton are going to keep the award, despite the criticised statement. The band is considered to have distanced itself from the war and participated in a demonstration against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that took place in Hartlepool, England, in March 2022, so shortly after the beginning of the invasion. During a visit to the Heugh Battery Museum, on behalf of the band, Sabaton guitarist Chris Rörland refrained from firing a gun:

“Due to the current situation happening around now, we have decided we shall not fire it today. I mean there is too many… Too many guns firing already, so… Let’s stop that.”

– Chris Rörland

You can check out said scene in the video below:

The Swedish Skeptics’ Association furthermore explains that the quote in question was something that they “had not found”, even thought they were “very thorough and of course googled like crazy” when they did their research on Sabaton. Dan Katz, board member of the Swedish Skeptics’ Association, adds:

“[…] It was good of someone to find it, but the first thing that comes up when you google ‘Sabaton, Ukraine and war’ is that they distance themselves from the war and then carried out this demonstration.”

– Dan Katz