National name: Schweiz/Suisse/Svizzera/Svizra
Area: 15,941 sq. ml. (41,290 sq. km)
Population (1999 est.): 7,275,467 (average annual rate of natural increase: 0.15%); birth rate: 10.5/1 000; infant mortality rate: 4.9/1 000; density per sq. mi.: 456 Capital (1994 est.): Bern, 129,423. Largest cities: Zurich, 343,045; Basel, 176,220; Geneva, 171,744; Lausanne, 117,153. Monetary unit: Swiss franc. Languages: German, French, Italian, Romansch. Ethnicity/race: German 65%, French 18%, Italian 10%, Romansch 1%, other 6%. Religions: Roman Catholic 49%, Protestant 40%, other 5%, no religion 8.3%. Literacy rate: 99%
Economic summary: GDP/PPP (1997 est.): $172.4 billion; $23,800 per capita. Real growth rate: 0.4%. Inflation: —0.1% (1997). Unemployment: 5% (1997). Arabic land: 10%. Agriculture: grains, fruits, vegetables, meat, eggs. Labor force: 3.8 million (850,000 foreign workers); services, 67%; manufacturing and construction, 29%; agriculture and forestry, 4% (1995). Industry: watches and clocks, precision instruments, machinery, textiles. Natural resources: water power, timber, salt. Exports: $99.2 billion (fob., 1997): machinery, chemicals, metals, agricultural products. Imports: $86.6 billion (c.i.f., 1997): machinery, chemicals, metals, agricultural products. Major trading partners: EU, U.S., Japan.
Geography Switzerland, in central Europe, is the land of the Alps. Its tallest peak is the Dufourspitze at 15,203 feet (4,634 m) on the Swiss side of the Italian border, one of 10 summits of the Monte Rose massif. The tallest peak in all of the Alps, Mont Blanc (15,771 ft.; 4,807 m), is actually in France. Most of Switzerland is composed of a mountainous plateau bordered by the great bulk of the Alps on the south and by the Jura Mountains on the northwest. The country’s largest lakes—Geneva, Constance (Bodensee), and Maggiore—straddle the French, German-Austrian, and Italian borders, respectively. The Rhine, navigable from Basel to the North Sea, is the principal inland waterway. Switzerland is twice the size of New Jersey.
Government Federal republic.
History Called Helvetia in ancient times, Switzerland in 1291 was a league of cantons in the Holy Roman Empire. Fashioned around the nucleus of three German forest districts of Schwyz, Uri, and Unterwalden, the Swiss Confederation slowly added new cantons. In 1648 the Treaty of Westphalia gave Switzerland its independence from the Holy Roman Empire.
French revolutionary troops occupied the country in 1798 and named it the Helvetic Republic, but Napoleon in 1803 restored its federal government. By 1815, the French- and Italian-speaking peoples of Switzerland had been granted political equality.
In 1815, the Congress of Vienna guaranteed the neutrality and recognized the independence of Switzerland. In the revolutionary period of 1847, the Catholic cantons seceded and organized a separate union called the Sonderbund, but were defeated and rejoined the federation.
In 1848, the new Swiss constitution established a union modeled upon that of the U.S. The federal constitution of 1874 established a strong central government while maintaining large powers of control in each canton. National unity and political conservatism grew as the country prospered from its neutrality. Its banking system became the world’s leading repository for international accounts. Strict neutrality was its policy in both world wars. Geneva was the seat of the League of Nations (later the European headquarters of the United Nations) and of a number of international organizations.
Allegations in the 1990s that secret assets of Jewish Holocaust victims were deposited in Swiss banks led to international criticism and the establishment of a fund to reimburse victims and their families.
Surprisingly, women were not given the right to vote or to hold office until 1971. Switzerland’s first woman president—as well as the first Jew to assume the position—was Ruth Dreifuss in 1999.
Article Source: http://www.informationbible.com/article-switzerland-199687.html
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