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SWITZERLAND
 
   
   
 

Switzerland Identity Card

Country name:
~ conventional long form: Swiss Confederation
~ conventional short form: Switzerland
~ local long form: Schweizerische Eidgenossenschaft (Ger), Confederation Suisse (Fre), Confederazione Svizzera (Ita)
~ local short form: Schweiz (German), Suisse (French), Svizzera (Italian)
 


 
Area: 41,290 sq km
Coastline: 0 km (landlocked)
Highest point: Dufourspitze 4,634 m
Population: 7,489,370
Density: 181/km2
Population growth rate: 0.49%
Official Languages: German, French, Italian , Romansch
Religions: Roman Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Muslim
Government type: formally a confederation, but similar in structure to a federal republic
Capital: Bern
GDP - per capita: $33,800
Inflation rate: 0.9%
Currency (code): Swiss franc (CHF)
Vehicle Country Id-Code: CH
ISO CODE Alpha2: CH
ISO CODE Alpha3: CHE
ISO NUMERIC CODE: 756
Calling code: +41
Internet country code: .ch
Time Zone: + 1.0 H

 

 
 
 
 

Zermatt and Matterhorn

Switzerland invokes a parable of tranquillity around the snowy Alps, rich smooth chocolate and well-crafted time pieces. The landscape of this European country is so pristine that any description seems to be a take-off from a fairy tale. A charming weather with vistas of blue water glittering in sunlight by the slants of white-capped Alps, makes Switzerland a dream destination for any globetrotter. Encompassed by Germany, France, Italy, Austria and Liechtenstein, it is an independent federal republic. Switzerland is also addressed as the Swiss Confederation or Confoederatio Helvetica in Latin, in short CH.
Politically, Switzerland is a federation of relatively autonomous 26 cantons that function independently like a separate state. Berne is the capital city of Switzerland and also the seat of the Federal Government. Zurich, Basel and Geneva are the main centres of business and industry in the country. The worldwide famous and prosperous tourism has developed Luzern, Lugano and Lausanne. . During 19th century, Switzerland was one of the poorest members of the European continent which was marked by large scale emigration of Swiss nationals to other parts of the world for a better life. But things have looked up in the economic front and Swiss financial strength has reached an envious position.
The population of Switzerland was estimated at 7,489,370 in 2005. But the strategic positioning and interactive historical process of the country has been the main reason for its ethnic diversity. The present day Switzerland has three major distinct national identities of German, French and Italian. Naturally, there are three official languages, German, French and Italian that reflect the three main national identities of the country. Amazingly, twenty per cent of the Swiss population are foreign nationals. Traditionally, since the 1957 Hungarian revolution, Switzerland has always welcomed asylum seekers and refugees, specially, in case of the Kosovans. The Swiss population is almost equally split between the Roman Catholic and Protestant faiths. In fact, Switzerland played an important role in the Reformation of the 16th Century and the conflict between the two faiths persisted for a long time.


Lake Lucerne

Geography

Switzerland is a nature’s blessing with scenic beauties. The picturesque green valleys dotted with multicolour flowers and shrubs create a perfect background to highlight the snow-bleached mountain peaks. The mountainous terrain of Switzerland is spread over an area of 41,285 square kilometres (15,940 square miles), of which, the productive vegetation area covers 30,753 square km (11,870 square miles). It is argued that location wise, Switzerland is situated in the heart of Europe. It shares its borders with France in the west and southwest, with the Jura Mountains and the Lake of Geneva marking the territories. In the north it is neighbour to Germany where the Rhine River and Lake Constance guard the frontier. On the eastern side, it is landlocked by Austria and Liechtenstein. And finally, in the southeast and south it is divided from Italy by the Alpine crests, the Lake of Lugano, and Lago Maggiore.
It’s geographical regions can be broadly divided into three main categories of the Jura, the Plateau and the Alps. The Plateau is stretched from the southwest to the northeast part of the country, between the Jura and the Central Alps. This is the most densely populated part of Switzerland having nearly 435 people/ mile. It is also home to the huge agriculture and industrial belt. The landscape is build of orchards and prominently marked vegetation fields by the sides of Aare River and the lakes of Neuchâtel and Zürich.
The Alps cover nearly two thirds of the southern part of the country. The highest peak in Switzerland is Monte Rosa on the Italian border at 4,600 m or 15,000 ft. Other spectacular mountains include the Eiger, the Jungfrau and the Matterhorn. It spans some 200 kilometres (125 miles), at an average altitude of 1700 m (5576 ft) and lends heavily on Swiss identity and its tourism activity.
The Jura Mountains of northwest slope up to the Alps through the Swiss Mittelland plateau. It is a limestone range stretching from Lake Geneva to the Rhine and borders Switzerland’s surface area and river valleys. The ranges got their name following the Jurassic period as numerous fossils and dinosaur tracks have been found in the Jura region. The river Rhine is the principal inland waterway and is navigable from Basel to the North Sea. The important lakes of the country are Geneva, Constance (Bodensee), and Maggiore. The Lötschberg, St. Gotthard, and Simplon passes and railroads provide communication links inside Switzerland. The country is blessed with a huge natural treasure chest of water that helps in generating electricity.


Staubbach Falls

Climate

The diverse topography of Switzerland translates into a climate that varies from Siberian to Mediterranean depending on the area and the time of year. In general, it enjoys a continental climate that is heavily influenced by the mountainous terrains and their differing altitudes. The valleys and plains of the Plateau have hot summers and cold winters. The mountains remain frosty throughout the year. Temperatures in the Ticino region in the south tend to be warmer, as does the western part of Lake Geneva. The Alpine geography region contributes in experiencing microclimates consisting of an almost Mediterranean weather, permanent glaciers and snow fields in the high Alps.


View of Zurich

History

Switzerland’s geographical positioning by the side of Alps and at the transit routes of southern and northern Europe has attracted dynasties through the ages. Starting from the fossils of the Jurassic age, this country hides evidence of human activity from the Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Age. The country was earlier known as Helvetia, after a Celtic tribe of same name migrated from Germany into central Switzerland in the first century BC. The Roman era swept the Swiss land following a campaign by Julius Caesar in 58 BC. The next three centuries witnessed a period of prosperity in Switzerland but it came to an end with an attack by the Alemannian tribe. Major migrations took place throughout Europe during this time which reflects in today's cultural mix of Switzerland. Only Rhaetia region remained out of bounds, which eventually led to the preservation of the Rheto-Roman, or Romanch language in the high valleys of Grisons in the East of modern Switzerland.
By 13th century, many cities like Zurich and Berne, mountain and lake communities of the Waldstatte or Forest Cantons of Lake Luzern were almost autonomous. But the Hapsburg rising against the rule of the Holy Roman Empire disturbed the autonomy. To fight this, the popular formation of the Swiss Confederation happened in 1291 with coming together of the Schwyz, Uri and Unterwalden cantons. The Swiss Confederation continued to grow throughout the 14th and 15th centuries with more cantons and cities of Luzern, Berne, Glarus, Zug and Zurich joining in. But it suffered a setback and eventually, declared the neutral stand in 1515 following a defeat in hands of the French and Venetians at Marignano. The succeeding decades are famous in world history as the era of Reformation that gave birth to the long lasting conflict between the Catholic and the Protestants.
In 1648 the Treaty of Westphalia gave Switzerland its independence from the Holy Roman Empire. After a brief period of stability, in 1798, a civil war began inspired in part by the French Revolution and infighting took place among the cantons. The French revolutionary troops occupied the country in 1798 and named it the Helvetic Republic. But Napoléon restored its federal government in 1803. Finally, in 1815, the Congress of Vienna restored Swiss independence, lost territory and established a permanent guarantee of Swiss neutrality. In 1864, Henri Dunant founded the Red Cross. In 1848, the new Swiss constitution was established and the federal constitution came in force from 1874. It ended the century-old power struggle between the central and local canton authorities. Switzerland maintained its neutral stand throughout the two World Wars but could not avoid the negative impact. Overcoming the allegations and disputes of Axis powers and Holocaust period, Switzerland is now one of the wealthiest nations of Europe.


Lucerne

Economy

Switzerland boasts of a GDP/PPP rate of approximately $251.9 billion and per capita $33,800, a figure wealthy enough to rub shoulders with one of the greatest economic powers of the world. A stable political scenario, excellent industrial relations between employers and the highly skilled labour force and liberal policies of the government are the main contributing factors to this financial prosperity.
Inflation rate is low, and unemployment is negligible all over the country. The stability is not centralised and reflects in standards of living, worker productivity, quality of education, and health care that are higher than any other European country. Amicable foreign relation has helped in building up trade routes. Due to low rate of population, the economy is heavily dependent on foreign guest workers, which represent approximately 20% of the labour force. The famous Swiss Bank Accounts are placed in 400 banks of Switzerland. Tourism is both a major contributor to the economy and one of the larger employers. But Switzerland has till date preferred to stay out of the bounds of European Union.


Panorama of Bern

Politics

Switzerland is a federation of 26 Cantons, or small states each that have their own constitution and elected regional assembly. Out of the 26 cantons, twenty are considered full and the rest six are recognised as half cantons. The existence of the country as a modern federal state dates back to 1848. The federal constitution, adopted in 1848 and revised in 1874, assigns specified functions and defines the limit of authority between the confederation and the cantons, maintaining the sovereignty of the later.
The Swiss parliament is known as the Federal assembly. A Council of states and National council together form the Federal assembly. The council of states is made up of total 46 members and the direct election process follows the proportion of two members from each canton and one from each half canton. The 200 members of federal assembly are directly elected every four years. The top government body is made up of seven members, elected by the Federal Assembly and is known as the Federal Council. The government members take it in turns to act as president for one year and act as head of state.
The Swiss people can influence political affairs through the highly developed system of direct democracy. In a 1981 plebiscite, measures were approved granting equal legal and economic rights for men and women and in 1999, a revision of the constitution established the right to strike, and guaranteed equal opportunities for those with disabilities.
In judiciary, the Federal Supreme Court supervises the appeals of cantonal courts or the administrative rulings of the federal administration. The judges hold office for six-year terms after being elected by the Federal Assembly.

 



 

 

 
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