Hans Blix: The World's Oldest Diplomat

The Life and Times of Hans Blix

Hans Blix was born in Sweden in 1526 during the reign of King Gustav I. Blix was a frail child with many health problems, and loved to read about the Norse Gods. Even at the tender age of 11, he showed remarkable skill at diplomacy when he wrote a paper stating that King Gustav I and traditional Roman Catholics ought to find common ground regarding the seizure of Church property and opposed the suppression of national liberties that the King had been advocating. Blix later studied law and became a professor of international law at the University of Stockholm. He formed committees and made many speeches regarding the Ingrian and Polish Wars. He was a member of the congress of the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. In the 18th century, Blix was a member of Parliament and advocated increasing civil rights for the peasantry. He opposed the new constitution of 1772 which established for Gustav III a limited but strong monarchy. In the 19th century, he advocated the union between Sweden and Norway that was finally accomplished in 1814, and became a minister in the Ministry of Administering Administration until the dissolution of the union in 1905. During World War I, he strongly supported the government's neutrality and said nothing bad about anyone, though he began to distrust the United States because he was a law professor, after all. He met and worked indirectly with Woodrow Wilson to establish the League of Nations, where he became an even more dedicated proponent of never taking sides in anything, because making decisions is very hard. Sweden remained neutral during the Second World War, partly due to Blix's refined skill at avoiding controversy and fear of opposing the Reich. He had nothing to say when asked about the policy of the Swedish government to cooperate with Nazi Germany and provide them with iron ore, presumably because he didn't think Hitler would bother Sweden if they just ignored him. He opposed the collaboration with the Allies, until 1945 when the threat of German invasion was gone of course.

From thereon, he basically worked for nuclear disarmament and worked hard at the U.N. to not antagonize anyone. You know the rest.

The Not So Well-known Quotations of Hans Blix:

"I firmly believe that King Gustav needs to address some issues politely with community leaders. There is no need to shout at one another, because it makes me nervous." (1547)

"Yes, it is a good idea for the King to return seized property to the Archbishop, otherwise this may lead to an unfortunate situation, one that might be very unfortunate indeed. However, there are many ways to solve this, and I intend to talk about them for a few days in a very soft voice." (1551)

"The Ingrian War has been a terrible waste of energy that could have been used to feed the peasants. However, that's just an opinion and you can do whatever you want, just please don't hurt me." -- Hans Blix to King Gustav II Adolf (1616)

"It was very difficult, but we tried to make everyone happy at the congress [of the Peace of Westphalia]. Whenever someone tried to get the upper hand, we spoke in monotones for hours about diplomacy, and they backed down. It was a great victory for diplomacy over the powers of division and war, and we drank a lot afterwards. The ladies still don't seem to be interested in me though; perhaps because I should be more neutral in relations with the opposite sex." (1648)

"People have often accused me of being unable to make up my mind. I don't understand why. Yet, maybe I do really understand. Perhaps with more discussions it may be resolved." (1666)

"I believe we deserved to lose to Russia. Sweden should not be too powerful. I predict that in the future Sweden will become very meek and powerless and shall be ruled by the laws of diplomacy, compromise, and neutrality, and we shall be very smug about it." (Comments about the Treaty of Nystad, 1721)

"Napoleon is not dangerous. I don't know why people say that. It is surely a sign of ignorance to which I fortunately do not succumb, because I went to university." (1812)

"The union of Sweden and Norway represents a wonderful compromise of ideals toward a common goal of understanding. Sovereignty is not the issue here, but the containment of a fierce nationalism that may lead to war, and that's bad because people get hurt when they believe in something other than expediency. Fortunately I am not one of THOSE people, because I am a professor of law." (1817)

"During the Great War, the Swedes benefitted from neutrality because it is always good to stay away from conflict and appease more powerful states. That way we don't have to face reality. And the League of Nations shall be based on that principle and there shall be no more wars." (1918)

"I never said that Hitler was not dangerous. I merely stated that if we cooperated with Germany, he would be less likely to hurt us, and maybe he would rebuild our decaying infrastructure. He built wonderful roads in Germany." (1945)