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Swiss Confederation
Schweizerische Eidgenossenschaft
Motto: (unofficial)
"Unus pro omnibus, omnes pro uno"
One for all, all for one
Anthem: "Swiss Psalm"
Location of  Switzerland  (green)on the European continent  (green and dark grey)
Location of  Switzerland  (green)

on the European continent  (green and dark grey)

Largest city Zürich
Official languages
Government Federal assembly-independent[3][4] directorial republic with elements of a direct democracy
 -  Federal Council
 -  Chancellor of Switzerland
Legislature Federal Assembly
 -  Upper house Council of States
 -  Lower house National Council
 -  Founded 1 August 1291[5] 
 -  Sovereignty recognised (Peace of Westphalia) 24 October 1648 
 -  Federal Treaty 7 August 1815 
 -  Federal state 12 September 1848[6] 
 -  Total 41,285 km2 (132nd)
15,940 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) 4.34 (2015)[7]
 -  2020 estimate increase 8,738,791[8] (99th)
 -  2015 census 8,327,126
 -  Density 207/km2 (48th)
536.1/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2022 estimate
 -  Total increase $739.49 billion[9] (35th)
 -  Per capita increase $84,658 [9] (5th)
GDP (nominal) 2022 estimate
 -  Total increase $841.69 billion[9] (20th)
 -  Per capita increase $92,434[9] (7th)
Gini (2018)29.7[10]
HDI (2021)increase 0.962[11]
very high · 1st
Currency Swiss franc (CHF)
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
 -  Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
Date format dd.mm.yyyy (AD)
Drives on the right
Calling code +41
Patron saint St Nicholas of Flüe
ISO 3166 code CH
Internet TLD .ch, .swiss

Switzerland is a landlocked country of 7.5 million people in Western Europe with an area of 41,285 km². Switzerland is a federal republic consisting of 26 states called cantons. Berne is the seat of the federal government and de facto capital, while the country's economic centers are its two global cities, Geneva and especially Zürich.

Switzerland is bordered by Germany, France, Italy, Austria and the tiny principality of Liechtenstein. Switzerland is multilingual and has four official languages: German, French, Italian and Romansh. Switzerland has a long history of neutrality – it has not been at war since 1815 (except for the regional Sonderbund War in November 1847) – and hosts many international organizations, including the Red Cross, the WTO and the U.N.'s European headquarters.

The Latin formal name of Switzerland, Confœderatio Helvetica is derived from the Helvetii, an ancient Celtic people in the Alpine region. It is rendered in German as Schweizerische Eidgenossenschaft, in French as Confédération suisse, in Italian as Confederazione Svizzera and in Romansh as Confederaziun svizra. The independence of Switzerland is traditionally dated to August 1, 1291; the first of August is the national holiday.


Early August, 1291, the three forest cantons of Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden signed the Federal Charter. The charter united the signatories in the struggle against Habsburg rule, the family then possessing the Duchy of Austria in the Holy Roman Empire. At the Battle of Morgarten on 15 November 1315, the Swiss defeated the Habsburg army and secured the existence of the Swiss Confederation within the Holy Roman Empire.

By 1353 the three original cantons had been joined by the cantons of Glarus and Zug and the city states of Lucerne, Zürich and Berne, forming the "Old Confederacy" of eight states that persisted during much of the 15th century and led to a significant increase of power and wealth of the federation, in particular due to several more victories against the Habsburg (Sempach, Näfels), over Charles the Bold of Burgundy during the 1470s, and the success of the Swiss mercenaries. The Swiss victory in the Swabian War against the Swabian League of emperor Maximilian I in 1499 amounted to de facto independence from the Holy Roman Empire.

The expansion of the federation, and the reputation of being invincible acquired during the earlier wars, suffered a first setback in 1515 with the Swiss defeat in the Battle of Marignano, which ended the so-called "heroic" epoch of Swiss history. The success of Zwingli's (a Swiss Protestant Reformist) Reformation in some cantons led to inter-cantonal wars in 1529 and 1531 (Kappeler Kriege). Under the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, European countries recognized Switzerland's independence from the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation and its neutrality (ancient régime). In Early Modern Switzerland, the conflict between Catholic and Protestant cantons persisted, erupting in further violence at the Battles of Villmergen in 1656 and 1712, and the growing authoritarianism of the patriciate families combined with a financial crisis in the wake of the Thirty Years War led to the Swiss peasant war of 1653.

Napoleonic Era

On 5 May 1798, the Eidgenossenschaft was occupied by France after a brief resistance and incorporated into its sphere of influence as a subsidiary republic under the name "Helvetic Republic". This centralized the government of the country and effectively abolished the cantons. The new regime was highly unpopular. It had been imposed by a foreign invading army and destroyed centuries of tradition, including the right to worship, and made Switzerland nothing more than a French satellite state. The fierce French suppression of the Nidwalden Revolt in September of 1798 is an example of the suppressing presence of the French army and the local population's resistance to the occupation.

When war broke out between France and other countries (Napoleonic Wars), Switzerland found itself being invaded by other outside forces from Austria and Russia to fight the French occupation. In 1803, Napoleon Bonaparte organized a meeting of the leading Swiss politicians from both sides in Paris. The result was the Act of Mediation which largely restored Swiss autonomy and introduced a Confederation of 19 cantons. Henceforth, much of Swiss politics would concern balancing the cantons' tradition of self-rule with the need for a central government.

In 1815, the inner and outer borders of Switzerland were internationally recognized at the Congress of Vienna. The treaty marked the last time that Switzerland fought in an international conflict. The treaty also allowed Switzerland to increase its territory, with the admission of the cantons of Valais, Neuchâtel and Geneva – this was also the last time Switzerland's territory expanded.

World War II

Switzerland was not invaded during either of the World Wars. During World War I, Switzerland was home to Vladimir Lenin and he remained there until 1917. In 1920, Switzerland joined the League of Nations, and in 1963 the Council of Europe.

During World War II, detailed invasion plans were drawn up by the Germans, but Switzerland was never attacked. Switzerland was able to remain independent through a combination of military deterrence, economic concessions to Germany, and good fortune as larger events during the war delayed an invasion. Attempts by Switzerland's small National Socialist party to cause an Anschluss with Germany failed. The Swiss press vigorously criticized the Third Reich, often infuriating its leadership. Under General Henri Guisan, a massive mobilization of militia forces was ordered. The Swiss military strategy was changed from one of static defence at the borders to protect the economic heartland, to a strategy of organized long-term attrition and withdrawal to strong, well-stockpiled positions high in the Alps known as the Réduit. Switzerland was an important base for espionage by both sides in the conflict and often mediated communications between the Axis and Allied powers.

Switzerland's trade was blockaded by both the Allies and by the Axis. Economic cooperation and extension of credit to the Third Reich varied according to the perceived likelihood of invasion, and the availability of other trading partners. Concessions reached their zenith after a crucial rail link through Vichy France was severed in 1942, leaving Switzerland completely surrounded by the Axis. Over the course of the war, Switzerland interned over 300,000 refugees, 104,000 of which were foreign troops, interned according to the Rights and Duties of Neutral Powers outlined in the Hague Conventions. 60,000 of the refugees were civilians escaping persecution by the Germans. Of these, 26,000 to 27,000 were Jewish.


Switzerland lies at the crossroads of several major European cultures that have heavily influenced the country's languages and culture. Switzerland has three official languages: German (63%) in the north, east and centre of the country; French (30.4%) to the west; Italian (6.5%) in the south. Romansh, a Romance language spoken locally by a small minority (< 0.5%) in the southeastern canton of Graubünden, is designated by the Federal Constitution as a national language along with German, French and Italian, and as official language if the authorities communicate with persons of Romansh language, but federal laws and other official acts must not be decreed in this language. The federal government is obliged to communicate in the official languages, and in the federal parliament simultaneous translation is provided from and into German, French and Italian.

The German spoken in Switzerland is predominantly a group of dialects collectively known as Swiss German, but written communication and broadcasts typically use Swiss Standard German. Similarly, there are some dialects of Franco-Provençal in rural communities in the French speaking part, known as "Suisse romande" , called Vaudois, Gruérien, Jurassien, Empro, Fribourgeois, Neuchâtelois, and in the Italian speaking area, Ticinese (a dialect of Lombard) . Also the official languages (German, French and Italian) borrow some terms not understood outside of Switzerland, i.e. terms from other languages (German Billette from French), from similar term in another language (Italian azione used not as act but as discount from German Aktion). Learning one of the other national languages at school is obligatory for all Swiss, so most Swiss are supposed to be at least bilingual (in reality, many Swiss are more fluent in English than in their own country's other languages, particularly the German-speaking Swiss).

Switzerland has traditionally a low crime rate. However, in recent years the crime rate has increased, including a comparatively high resident aliens fraction, which has been a topic of political controversy

Resident foreigners and temporary foreign workers make up about 21% of the population. Most of these are from European Union countries (Italians being the largest group, at 4%), with people from the various nations of former Yugoslavia making up (5%), with ethnic Albanians as the largest group among them, as well as Turks (1%). The country has seen growing immigration of various nationalities, as well as from the Caribbean and South America. Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka are the most prominent group of people of Asian origin.


Switzerland's independence and neutrality have long been honored by the major European powers. Switzerland was not involved in either of the two World Wars. However, the country's political and economic integration within Europe over the past half century and Switzerland's role in the UN and other international organizations and as the headquarters of multinational banks and corporations, cast some doubt on its independence and neutrality.

External links



  1. Swiss law does not designate a capital as such, but the federal parliament and government are installed in Bern, while other federal institutions, such as the federal courts, are in other cities (Bellinzona, Lausanne, Luzern, Neuchâtel, St. Gallen a.o.).
  2. Original: Als 1848 ein politisch-administratives Zentrum für den neuen Bundesstaat zu bestimmen war, verzichteten die Verfassungsväter darauf, eine Hauptstadt der Schweiz zu bezeichnen und formulierten stattdessen in Artikel 108: "Alles, was sich auf den Sitz der Bundesbehörden bezieht, ist Gegenstand der Bundesgesetzgebung." Die Bundesstadt ist also nicht mehr und nicht weniger als der Sitz der Bundesbehörden. (In 1848, when a political and administrative centre was being determined for the new federation, the founders of the constitution abstained from designating a capital city for Switzerland and instead formulated in Article 108: "Everything, which relates to seat of the authorities, is the subject of the federal legislation." The federal city is therefore no more and no less than the seat of the federal authorities.)
  3. Shugart, Matthew Søberg (December 2005). "Semi-Presidential Systems: Dual Executive And Mixed Authority Patterns". French Politics 3 (3): 323–351. doi:10.1057/palgrave.fp.8200087.
  4. Elgie, Robert (2016). "Government Systems, Party Politics, and Institutional Engineering in the Round". Insight Turkey 18 (4): 79–92. ISSN 1302-177X.
  5. Traditional date. The original date of the Rütlischwur was 1307 (reported by Aegidius Tschudi in the 16th century) and is just one among several comparable treaties between more or less the same parties during that period. The date of the Federal Charter of 1291 was selected in 1891 for the official celebration of the "Confederacy's 600th anniversary".
  6. A solemn declaration of the German: Tagsatzung declared the Federal Constitution adopted on 12 September 1848. A resolution of the Tagsatzung of 14 September 1848 specified that the powers of the institutions provided for by the 1815 Federal Treaty would expire at the time of the constitution of the Federal Council, which took place on 16 November 1848.
  7. Surface water and surface water change. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
  8. Popolazione della Svizzera tra il 2020 e il 2021 (31 December 2021).
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 World Economic Outlook Database, October 2022. International Monetary Fund (11 October 2022).
  10. Gini coefficient of equivalised disposable income – EU-SILC survey. Eurostat.
  11. Human Development Report 2021/2022 (en). United Nations Development Programme (8 September 2022).