Welcome to the alpine microstate of Liechtenstein, a monarchy that packs a big punch despite its small size.
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- Capital: Vaduz
- Largest Municipality: Schaan
- Population (2015): 37,623 (191st)
- Total Area: 160 km² (219th)
- Official Language: German
- Currency: Swiss franc (CHF)
History of Liechtenstein
Early and Medieval Liechtenstein
During antiquity, what is now Liechtenstein was mostly integrated into nearby powers (namely the Roman Empire). There were military camps located nearby while a road ran through the region. By the 3rd century CE however, Germanic tribes destroyed the nearby camp and overran the territory.
During most of the early Middle Ages Liechtenstein (like much of the nearby area) became a part of the large and powerful Frankish kingdom. Around 1000 CE (after the breakup of said kingdom), it became a part of the Holy Roman Empire alongside what was Middle Francia. It was during the late medieval period when the German language became ubiquitous throughout the land.
Monarchy and Principality
Although it remained part of the Holy Roman Empire, the rise of the Liechtenstein dynasty in 1699 signaled a new era for the region. The family claimed land in nearby areas and had a high position, but were unable to exercise much power within the HRE due to the lack of direct land ownership from the crown. This prompted the Liechtenstein family to purchase the lordship of Schellenberg as well as Vaduz. Though small, these holdings were accountable directly to the Emperor.
Following the purchase, the united territory was named Liechtenstein and became a principality and sovereign member of the HRE in 1718. During the Napoleonic Wars, the defeats suffered by the Empire resulted in the lack of any real authority over Liechtenstein. While the tiny state would become a member of the German Confederation in the 19th century, these events essentially resulted in what would later become lasting sovereignty and independence for Liechtenstein.
20th Century and Modern Liechtenstein
Liechtenstein was close to Austria-Hungary until its dissolution at the end of World War I. The principality suffered economically and grew close to Switzerland as a result to recover. Neutral during WWII, the royal family did have a portion of their possessions taken (as they were considered by some to belong to Germany).
Since then, Liechtenstein has continued along its own path (with close ties to the Swiss). As a result of low corporate taxation, the country is a haven for many companies and has now become one of the world’s richest nations. Officially, the monarchy holds many more powers than others throughout Europe, though these are used sparingly in practice.
Culture of Liechtenstein
Liechtensteiner culture has been strongly impacted by nearby German-speaking areas. This includes parts of Switzerland, Austria, and German regions such as Bavaria. The country is also known for housing and owning great pieces of art (some of which have since been sold to or displayed in foreign museums).
Flag of Liechtenstein
The flag of Liechtenstein consists of two horizontal stripes (blue and red) with a golden crown in the top left corner. The crown was added after 1936 when Liechtenstein discovered at the Summer Olympics that their flag was identical to Haiti’s.
Sports in Liechtenstein
Though small, Liechtenstein is home to a high density of mountains, and as such alpine sports (namely skiing) are popular in the principality (with many a Liechtensteiner competing in the Winter Olympics). Soccer is also popular, though the domestic teams ply their trade in the Swiss league. The national team is considered a minnow, though they have racked up some respectable results over the years.
Geography of Liechtenstein
Located in the Upper Rhine valley of the European Alps; the country is largely alpine with the river forming a border with Switzerland. There are 11 communes in the principality (many with a single town or village), which are further divided into the Unterland (lower country) and the Oberland (upper country).
The capital, Vaduz, is a town of about 5000, which also features the eponymous castle and home to the prince. Nearby Schaan is slightly larger and is the biggest settlement in the country.
Facts about Liechtenstein
- It is doubly landlocked (bordered by only landlocked countries)
- On the national day, all subjects are invited to the Prince’s castle for a celebration that also involves free beer
- Liechtenstein was accidentally invaded by the Swiss in 2007 thanks to a training exercise where 170 soldiers got lost and crossed the border
- Snoop Dogg tried to rent the country in order to shoot a music video. Though a scheme was later implemented to do this, he was refused at the time due to a lack of notice
- Its national anthem has the same tune as ‘God Save the Queen’
- The royal family is worth nearly 8 billion USD while the Prince is personally worth 4 billion
- Liechtenstein is the smallest country to win an Olympic medal (9 in alpine skiing)
- It is the leading maker of false teeth
- Liechtenstein has the world’s 3rd highest income per capita
- The country has no army. In the last military engagement (1866), 80 men were sent out and 81 returned because they made an Italian friend
It might not take long to cross the country but its unique history and culture can be explored endlessly! With that, Liechtenstein is definitely one of the most interesting places in Europe
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