top of page
Search

A-Z Around the World: Liechtenstein


Welcome back to another installment of A-Z Around the World. Today we are covering Liechtenstein, Enjoy !!!!!!!

 

Liechtenstein officially the Principality of Liechtenstein, is a doubly landlocked German-speaking micro-state in Alpine Central Europe. The principality is a constitutional monarchy headed by the Prince of Liechtenstein.

Liechtenstein is bordered by Switzerland to the west and south and Austria to the east and north. It is Europe's fourth-smallest country, with an area of just over 160 square kilometres (62 square miles) and a population of 37,877. Divided into 11 municipalities, its capital is Vaduz, and its largest municipality is Schaan. It is also the smallest country to border two countries.

Economically, Liechtenstein has one of the highest gross domestic products per person in the world when adjusted for purchasing power parity. It was once known as a billionaire tax haven, but is no longer on any blacklists of uncooperative tax haven countries.

An Alpine country, Liechtenstein is mountainous, making it a winter sport destination. The country has a strong financial sector centered in Vaduz. Almost 20,000 people commute to work in Liechtenstein. Liechtenstein is a member of the United Nations, the European Free Trade Association, and the Council of Europe, and although not a member of the European Union, it participates in both the Schengen Area and the European Economic Area. It also has a customs union and a monetary union with Switzerland.

History

Early history

The oldest traces of human existence in what is now Liechtenstein date back to the Middle Paleolithic era. Neolithic farming settlements were initially founded in the valleys around 5300 BCE.

The Hallstatt and La Tène cultures flourished during the late Iron Age, from around 450 BCE—possibly under some influence of both the Greek and Etruscan civilizations. One of the most important tribal groups in the Alpine region were the Helvetii. In 58 BCE, at the Battle of Bibracte, Julius Caesar defeated the Alpine tribes, therefore bringing the region under close control of the Roman Republic. By 15 BCE, Tiberius—destined to be the second Roman emperor—with his brother, Drusus, conquered the entirety of the Alpine area. Liechtenstein was then integrated into the Roman province of Raetia. The area was maintained by the Roman military, who also maintained large legionary camps at Brigantium (Austria), near Lake Constance, and at Magia (Swiss). A Roman road which ran through the territory was also created and maintained by these groups. In 259/60 Brigantium was destroyed by the Alemanni, a Germanic people who settled in the area in around 450 CE.

In the Early Middle Ages, the Alemanni settled the eastern Swiss plateau by the 5th century and the valleys of the Alps by the end of the 8th century, with Liechtenstein located at the eastern edge of Alemannia. In the 6th century, the entire region became part of the Frankish Empire following Clovis I's victory over the Alemanni at Tolbiac in 504.

The area that later became Liechtenstein remained under Frankish hegemony (Merovingian and Carolingian dynasties), until the empire was divided by the Treaty of Verdun in 843 CE, following the death of Charlemagne. The territory of present-day Liechtenstein was under the possession of East Francia. It would later be reunified with Middle Francia under the Holy Roman Empire, around 1000 CE. Until about 1100, the predominant language of the area was Romansh, but thereafter German began to gain ground in the territory. In 1300, an Alemannic population—the Walsers, who originated in Valais—entered the region and settled. The mountain village of Triesenberg still preserves features of Walser dialect into the present century.

Foundation of a dynasty

By 1200, dominions across the Alpine plateau were controlled by the Houses of Savoy, Zähringer, Habsburg, and Kyburg. Other regions were accorded the Imperial immediacy that granted the empire direct control over the mountain passes. When the Kyburg dynasty fell in 1264, the Habsburgs under King Rudolph I (Holy Roman Emperor in 1273) extended their territory to the eastern Alpine plateau that included the territory of Liechtenstein. This region was enfeoffed to the Counts of Hohenems until the sale to the Liechtenstein dynasty in 1699.

In 1396 Vaduz (the southern region of Liechtenstein) gained imperial immediacy, i.e. it became subject to the Holy Roman Emperor alone.

The family, from which the principality takes its name, originally came from Liechtenstein Castle in Lower Austria which they had possessed from at least 1140 until the 13th century (and again from 1807 onwards). The Liechtenstein’s acquired land, predominantly in Moravia, Lower Austria, Silesia, and Styria. As these territories were all held in feudal tenure from more senior feudal lords, particularly various branches of the Habsburgs, the Liechtenstein dynasty was unable to meet a primary requirement to qualify for a seat in the Imperial diet (parliament), the Reichstag. Even though several Liechtenstein princes served several Habsburg rulers as close advisers, without any territory held directly from the Imperial throne, they held little power in the Holy Roman Empire.

For this reason, the family sought to acquire lands that would be classed as unmittelbar (immediate) or held without any intermediate feudal tenure, directly from the Holy Roman Emperor. During the early 17th century Karl I of Liechtenstein was made a Fürst(prince) by the Holy Roman Emperor Matthias after siding with him in a political battle. Hans-Adam I was allowed to purchase the minuscule Herrschaft ("Lordship") of Schellenberg and county of Vaduz (in 1699 and 1712 respectively) from the Hohenems. Tiny Schellenberg and Vaduz had exactly the political status required: no feudal lord other than their comital sovereign and the suzerain Emperor.

Principality

On 23 January 1719, after the lands had been purchased, Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor, decreed that Vaduz and Schellenberg were united and elevated the newly formed territory to the dignity of Fürstentum (principality) with the name "Liechtenstein" in honour of "[his] true servant, Anton Florian of Liechtenstein". It was on this date that Liechtenstein became a sovereign member state of the Holy Roman Empire. It is a testament to the pure political expediency of the purchase that the Princes of Liechtenstein never visited their new principality for almost 100 years.

By the early 19th century, as a result of the Napoleonic Wars in Europe, the Holy Roman Empire came under the effective control of France, following the crushing defeat at Austerlitz by Napoleon in 1805. Emperor Francis II abdicated, ending more than 960 years of feudal government. Napoleon reorganized much of the Empire into the Confederation of the Rhine. This political restructuring had broad consequences for Liechtenstein: the historical imperial, legal, and political institutions had been dissolved. The state ceased to owe an obligation to any feudal lord beyond its borders.

Modern publications generally attribute Liechtenstein's sovereignty to these events. Its prince ceased to owe an obligation to any suzerain. From 25 July 1806, when the Confederation of the Rhine was founded, the Prince of Liechtenstein was a member, in fact, a vassal, of its hegemon, styled protector, the French Emperor Napoleon I, until the dissolution of the confederation on 19 October 1813.

Soon afterward, Liechtenstein joined the German Confederation (20 June 1815 – 24 August 1866), which was presided over by the Emperor of Austria.

In 1818, Prince Johann I granted the territory a limited constitution. In that same year Prince Aloys became the first member of the House of Liechtenstein to set foot in the principality that bore their name. The next visit would not occur until 1842.

Developments during the 19th century included:

  • 1836, the first factory, for making ceramics, was opened.

  • 1861, the Savings and Loans Bank was founded along with the first cotton-weaving mill.

  • 1868, the Liechtenstein Army was disbanded for financial reasons.

  • 1872, a railway line between Switzerland and the Austro-Hungarian Empire was constructed through Liechtenstein.

  • 1886, two bridges over the Rhine to Switzerland were built.

20th century

Until the end of World War I, Liechtenstein was closely tied first to the Austrian Empire and later to Austria-Hungary; the ruling princes continued to derive much of their wealth from estates in the Habsburg territories, and spent much of their time at their two palaces in Vienna. The economic devastation caused by the war forced the country to conclude a customs and monetary union with its other neighbour, Switzerland.

At the time of the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, it was argued that Liechtenstein, as a fief of the Holy Roman Empire, was no longer bound to the emerging independent state of Austria, since the latter did not consider itself the legal successor to the empire. This is partly contradicted by the Liechtenstein perception that the dethroned Austro-Hungarian Emperor still maintained an abstract heritage of the Holy Roman Empire.

In 1929, 75-year-old Prince Franz I succeeded to the throne. He had just married Elisabeth von Gutmann, a wealthy woman from Vienna whose father was a Jewish businessman from Moravia. Although Liechtenstein had no official Nazi party, a Nazi sympathy movement arose within its National Union party. Local Liechtenstein Nazis identified Elisabeth as their Jewish "problem".

In March 1938, just after the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany, Franz named as regent his 31-year-old grandnephew and heir-presumptive, Prince Franz Joseph. Franz died in July that year, and Franz Joseph succeeded to the throne. Franz Joseph II first moved to Liechtenstein in 1938, a few days after Austria's annexation.

During World War II, Liechtenstein remained officially neutral, looking to neighbouring Switzerland for assistance and guidance, while family treasures from dynastic lands and possessions in Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia were taken to Liechtenstein for safekeeping. At the close of the conflict, Czechoslovakia and Poland, acting to seize what they considered German possessions, expropriated the entirety of the Liechtenstein dynasty's properties in those three regions. The expropriations (subject to modern legal dispute at the International Court of Justice) included over 1,600 km2 (618 sq mi) of agricultural and forest land (most notably the UNESCO listed Lednice–Valtice Cultural Landscape), and several family castles and palaces.

In 2005 it was revealed that Jewish labourers from the Strasshof concentration camp, provided by the SS, had worked on estates in Austria owned by Liechtenstein's Princely House.

Citizens of Liechtenstein were forbidden to enter Czechoslovakia during the Cold War. More recently the diplomatic conflict revolving around the controversial postwar Beneš decrees resulted in Liechtenstein not sharing international relations with the Czech Republic or Slovakia. Diplomatic relations were established between Liechtenstein and the Czech Republic on 13 July 2009, and with Slovakia on 9 December 2009.

Financial centre

Liechtenstein was in dire financial straits following the end of the war in Europe. The Liechtenstein dynasty often resorted to selling family artistic treasures, including the portrait Ginevra de' Benci by Leonardo da Vinci, which was purchased by the National Gallery of Art of the United States in 1967 for US$5 million ($38 million in 2018 dollars), then a record price for a painting.

By the late 1970s, Liechtenstein used its low corporate tax rates to draw many companies, and became one of the wealthiest countries in the world.

As of September 2008 the Prince of Liechtenstein is the world's eighth wealthiest monarch, with an estimated wealth of US$3.5 billion. The country's population enjoys one of the world's highest standards of living.

Geography

Liechtenstein is situated in the Upper Rhine valley of the European Alps and is bordered to the east by Austria, and to the south and west by Switzerland. The entire western border of Liechtenstein is formed by the Rhine. Measured south to north the country is about 24 km (15 mi) long. Its highest point, the Grauspitz, is 2,599 m (8,527 ft). Despite its Alpine location, prevailing southerly winds make the climate comparatively mild. In winter, the mountain slopes are well suited to winter sports.

New surveys using more accurate measurements of the country's borders in 2006 have set its area at 160 km2 (61.776 sq mi), with borders of 77.9 km (48.4 mi). Liechtenstein's borders are 1.9 km (1.2 mi) longer than previously thought.

Liechtenstein is one of the world's two doubly landlocked countries— countries wholly surrounded by other landlocked countries (the other is Uzbekistan). Liechtenstein is the sixth-smallest independent nation in the world by area.

The principality of Liechtenstein is divided into 11 communes called Gemeinden (singular Gemeinde). The Gemeinden mostly consist of only a single town or village. Five of them (Eschen, Gamprin, Mauren, Ruggell, and Schellenberg) fall within the electoral district Unterland (the lower county), and the remainder (Balzers, Planken, Schaan, Triesen, Triesenberg, and Vaduz) within Oberland (the upper county).

Demographics

Population-wise, Liechtenstein is Europe's fourth-smallest country; Vatican City, San Marino, and Monaco have fewer residents. Its population is primarily Alemannic-speaking, although one third is foreign-born, primarily German speakers from Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, along with other Swiss, Italians, and Turks. Foreign-born people make up two-thirds of the country's workforce.

Liechtensteiners have an average life expectancy at birth of 82.0 years, subdividing as male: 79.8 years, female: 84.8 years (2018 est.). The infant mortality rate is 4.2 deaths per 1,000 live births, according to 2018 estimates.

Languages

The official language is German; most speak an Alemannic dialect of German that is highly divergent from Standard German but closely related to dialects spoken in neighbouring regions such as Switzerland and Vorarlberg, Austria. In Triesenberg, a Walser German dialect promoted by the municipality is spoken. Swiss Standard German is also understood and spoken by most Liechtensteiners.

Culture

As a result of its small size, Liechtenstein has been strongly affected by external cultural influences, most notably those originating in the southern regions of German-speaking Europe, including Austria, Baden-Wurttemberg, Bavaria, Switzerland, and specifically Tirol and Vorarlberg. The "Historical Society of the Principality of Liechtenstein" plays a role in preserving the culture and history of the country.

The largest museum is the Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein, an international museum of modern and contemporary art with an important international art collection. The building by the Swiss architects Morger, Degelo, and Kerez is a landmark in Vaduz. It was completed in November 2000 and forms a "black box" of tinted concrete and black basalt stone. The museum collection is also the national art collection of Liechtenstein.

The other important museum is the Liechtenstein National Museum (Liechtensteinisches Landesmuseum) showing permanent exhibition on the cultural and natural history of Liechtenstein as well as special exhibitions. There is also a stamp museum, ski museum, and a 500-year-old Rural Lifestyle Museum.

The Liechtenstein State Library is the library that has legal deposit for all books published in the country.

The most famous historical sites are Vaduz Castle, Gutenberg Castle, the Red House and the ruins of Schellenberg.

The Private Art Collection of the Prince of Liechtenstein, one of the world's leading private art collections, is shown at the Liechtenstein Museum in Vienna.

On the country's national holiday all subjects are invited to the castle of the head of state. A significant portion of the population attends the national celebration at the castle where speeches are made and complimentary beer is served.

Music and theatre are an important part of the culture. There are numerous music organizations such as the Liechtenstein Musical Company, the annual Guitar Days, and the International Josef Gabriel Rheinberger Society, which play in two main theatres.

Cuisine

The cuisine is diverse and has been influenced by the cuisine of nearby countries, particularly Switzerland and Austria, and is also influenced by Central European cuisine. Cheeses and soups are integral parts of Liechtensteiner cuisine. Milk products are also commonplace in the country's cuisine, due to an expansive dairy industry. Common vegetables include greens, potatoes and cabbage. Widely consumed meats include beef, chicken and pork. The consumption of three meals a day is commonplace, and meals are often formal.

Common foods and dishes

Muesli is a common breakfast dish in Liechtensteiner cuisine.

  • Asparagus is frequently used

  • Bread

  • Hafalaab –a soup with ham or bacon and cornmeal dumplings

  • Kasknopfl – small dumplings topped with cheese or onions

  • Liver

  • Muesli – uncooked rolled oats, fruit and nuts that have been soaked in water or juice

  • Pastries

  • Ribel – a grain

  • Rösti – a dish prepared with coarsely grated potato that is fried. It may include regional variations that utilize additional ingredients

  • Sandwiches

  • Saukerkas – a cheese produced in Liechtenstein

  • Schnitzel – a breaded cutlet dish made with boneless meat thinned with a mallet.

  • Smoked meats

  • Torkarebl – a porridge dish that resembles dumplings

  • Wurst – smoked sausages

  • Yogurt

Common beverages

  • Beer

  • Cocoa

  • Coffee

  • Milk – consumed as a beverage by many Liechtensteiners

  • Wine

 

Travel to Liechtenstein: Lonely Planet

A pipsqueak of a country, Liechtenstein snuggles between Switzerland and Austria, among mountain ranges that rise steep and rugged above the Rhine. Besides the sheer novelty value of visiting one of the world's tiniest and richest countries, Liechtenstein is pure fairy-tale stuff – a mountain principality governed by an iron-willed monarch, embedded deep in the Alps and crowned by turreted castles.

 

1 view0 comments
bottom of page