A country of west-central Europe. The region was conquered by Germanic tribes in the 5th century and by Swabia and Burgundy in the 9th, becoming part of the Holy Roman Empire in 1033. Protesting Hapsburg control in the 13th century, the Swiss formed a defense league made up of cantons that became the basis of their confederation, and by 1499 they had achieved independence.
Switzerland Tourist Attractions
The Reformation in the 16th century led to religious civil wars that lasted through the next two centuries. The French took brief control of Switzerland during the French Revolution, but the confederacy was restored in 1815. Switzerland later adopted a federal constitution (1848) and maintained a policy of neutrality through both World Wars. Bern is the capital and Zurich the largest city. Population: 7,550,000.
Country, central Europe. Area: 15,940 sq mi (41,284 sq km). Population (2005 est.): 7,519,000. Capitals: Bern (administrative), Lausanne (judicial). The population is German, French, and Italian. Languages: German, French, Italian, Romansh (all official, with Romansh used locally). Religions: Christianity (Roman Catholic, Protestant); also Islam. Currency: Swiss franc. Switzerland is divided into three regions: the meadow-covered Jura Mountains; the central Mittelland, a rich agricultural and urbanized area; and the lofty crags of the Alps. It is one of the world's major financial centres; its economy is based largely on international trade and banking, as well as light and heavy industries. Manufactures include watches, precision instruments, machinery, and chemicals. Tourism and agriculture are also important; products include grains, sugar beets, fruits and vegetables, dairy products, chocolate, and wine.
Despite diverse ethnic groups, religions, and languages, Switzerland has maintained the world's oldest democracy for some 700 years. It is a federal state with two legislative houses; its head of state and government is the president of the federal council. The original inhabitants were the Helvetians, who were conquered by the Romans in the 1st century BC.
Germanic tribes penetrated the region from the 3rd to the 6th century AD, and Muslim and Magyar raiders ventured in during the 10th century. It came under the rule of the Franks in the 9th century and the medieval empire (later the Holy Roman Empire) in the 11th century. In 1291 three cantons formed an anti-Habsburg league that became the nucleus of the Swiss Confederation. It was a centre of the Reformation, which divided the confederation and led to a period of political and religious conflict.
The French organized Switzerland as the Helvetic Republic in 1798. In 1815 the Congress of Vienna recognized Swiss independence and guaranteed its neutrality. A new federal state was formed in 1848 with Bern as the capital. Switzerland remained neutral in both World War I and World War II and has continued to defend this neutrality. It joined the European Free Trade Association in 1960, but it has opted against joining the European Union. It joined the United Nations in 2002.Colosseum in Rome
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Between the Jura and the Central Alps, which occupy the southern section (more than half) of the country, there is a long, relatively narrow plateau, crossed by the Aare River and containing the lakes of Neuchâtel and Zürich. Alpine communications are assured by numerous passes and by railroad tunnels, notably those of Lötschberg, St. Gotthard, and Simplon.
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Switzerland consists of 26 federated states, of which 20 are called cantons and 6 are called half cantons. The cantons are Zürich, Bern, Lucerne, Uri, Schwyz, Glarus, Zug, Fribourg, Solothurn, Schaffhausen, Saint Gall, the Grisons (Graubünden), Aargau, Thurgau, Ticino, Vaud, Valais, Neuchâtel, Geneva, and Jura. Of the half cantons, Obwalden and Nidwalden together form Unterwalden, Basel-Land and Basel-Stadt form Basel, and Ausser-Rhoden and Inner-Rhoden form Appenzell.