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Useful Notes / Luxembourg

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Between Germany and Belgium, so nice.... Currently
Luxembourg, officially known as the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg (Luxembourgish: Groussherzogtum Lëtzebuerg, French: Grand-Duché de Luxembourg, German: Großherzogtum Luxemburg), is a very small — about 1,000 square miles — and entirely land-locked country in Western Europe. Less than half a million people live there.

History, though, was unkind: it stands at the border of the French and the Teutonic worlds — and it sucks to be stuck in between (just ask Belgium). French, German, and the local Letzeburgisch (a bit Dutch, a bit German, mostly Letzeburgisch) are all spoken less on the grounds of "ethnicity" than by everyone at different times and situations.

Luxembourg was part of the Holy Roman Empire, then Napoléon Bonaparte's First French Empire, and finally the Kingdom of the Netherlands (and simultaneously the German Confederation). When Belgium left the Netherlands, Luxembourg stayed, but now it was stranded and it integrated its economy with that of Germany. Nevertheless, it was a poor country and many people headed for the United States.

Then Otto von Bismarck took over in Germany, and his Germany was anything but lame-duck. He had no interest in allowing the Dutch king to participate and he kicked Luxembourg out. The French offered to buy it up and the Dutch said yes. Bismarck said no, demanding a neutral country (so the French couldn't invade Germany that way). Four years later, France learned that you don't cross a chessmaster extraordinaire.

Forty years later, Luxembourg learned once again that being where it is sucks when Germany invaded (and had they not, the French, documents show, would have done so instead). But Luxembourg got off better than Belgium: their comically miniscule army was captured without loss of life by the Germans before war could be declared, and so the Germans legitimized their position by claiming that absolutely nothing had happened, allowing the civilian government to continue. Yeah right. In practice, Luxembourg was ruled as a German rear garrison with a permanent population, with all effective power being held by the military. Luxembourg was to be asked to join Germany (at gunpoint) after the expected German victory. Thankfully for Luxembourg, this was not to be, especially since — in large part because of German high-handedness — Luxembourg became culturally and politically estranged from Germany while defining itself as a free, independent, constitutional monarchy.

The Nazis weren't so civil and didn't like this one bit. Luckily, they lost, too. Since then, Luxembourg has been independent and filthy rich, having the highest GDP per capita in the world at around $108,000, compared to the United States' $47,000 (though the cost of living is a bit high, so by purchasing power, it's actually second after Qatar at $80,000, but still ridiculously high). And with France and Germany having sorted their thing out, today it's actually a real nice place to be. It was a founder member of The European Union, and uses the euro as its currency.

Luxembourg is a constitutional monarchy: the Grand Duke is currently Henri I. The Prime Minister is currently Xavier Bettel.

Ever since the emergence of parties in 1918, Luxembourg has been governed by coalitions (except for a period between 1921-1925), making it one of the most stable democracies. The CSV (Christian Social People's Party) and its predecessor the PD (Party of the Right) probably deserve some sort of record for being in charge between 1918-1925, 1926-1974 (during which the PD became the CSV) and 1979-present. Prime Ministers tend to have quite long mandates, like the most recent Pierre Werner (1959-1974 and 1979-1984), Jacques Santer (1984-1995) and Jean-Claude Juncker (1995-2013).

It has no navy (the no coast thing is a bit of a problem) and an army of c.450 people. Its air force consists of 17 AWACS planes, three trainers and a cargo plane, all bar the last NATO aircraft registered with the country for convenience purposes. That said, it does do peacekeeping a fair bit (when you're surrounded by allies, you don't need to worry too much about keeping troops at home).

Low taxes on alcohol, wink-wink nudge-nudge. Also, free public transport, with just a flat three euro charge for first class.

Radio Luxembourg (RTL- Radio Television Luxembourg- for non-English listeners)

One of the most famous things from the country is a long-wave (later medium-wave) radio station called Radio Luxembourg. This began in 1933, during a mini-boom in European stations that broadcast commercial programmes to the United Kingdom in defiance of the BBC's non-commercial monopoly. During World War II the station fell under Nazi control, but an engineer had hidden some transmitter parts to prevent it broadcasting at full power.

After the war ended there was some discussion about potentially using the Luxembourg transmitter to relay anti-communist programming from London, but this plan was foiled by the change of British government and in 1946 Radio Luxembourg resumed commercial operations.

From 1946 until 1973, Radio Luxembourg was the only English-language non-BBC radio station (not counting Radio Caroline and other pirate stations) that could be picked up in the UK. In the mid-1950s it switched to medium-wave and could only be heard at night. Its pop music station, Luxembourg 208, played on the fact the BBC Radio One only broadcast "part-time" and surrendered its airwaves to the far less hip Radio Two at seven p.m. every day. 208 started broadcasting at 6:45 every evening. Many shows were pre-recorded in London.

By the early 1960s, most of the station's programming consisted of record shows sponsored by various labels (all of them owned by just four companies), but the advent of pirate radio forced Luxembourg to adopt a more conventional top 40 format.

Luxembourg briefly operated on satellite as well as medium-wave from 1989 and added a 24-hour satellite service, but the medium-wave service closed at the end of 1991 and the satellite service a year later. A partly-owned companion station, Atlantic 252, operated on long-wave out of Ireland from 1989 until 2002 before being briefly replaced by a sport station.

The parent company, RTL Group, today owns two British production companies (Fremantle Media, which in turn owns the remnants of Thames Television), as well as several other European networks, these often using the RTL name.

Notable people from Luxembourg:

  • Jean-Claude Juncker, politician and statesman, Minister of Finances (1989-2009), Prime Minister (1995-2013) and President of the European Commission (2014-2019).
  • Vicky Krieps, actress.
  • Robert Schuman, politician and statesman, one of the founders of the European Communities, the Council of Europe and NATO.

Luxembourg and Luxembourgers in fiction:

  • M*A*S*H, oddly enough, features an episode with a missing Luxembourger. Luxembourg participated in The Korean War, with two deaths and two injuries. The concern expressed by the Luxemburgouis officer for one missing soldier was there to emphasise how a country so much smaller than the USA would consider the loss of one man to be a tragedy that affected everybody - this at a time when the US Army was routinely feeding whole regiments into the meat-grinder.
  • Mr. Hublot is an Oscar-winning 2013 cartoon short made in Luxembourg.
  • The Red Suitcase is an Oscar-nominated short film about a 16-year-old girl who arrives in the Luxembourg airport, where she is to be picked up by a man three times her age, whom she has been pledged to marry.
  • In Resistance: Retribution, Luxembourg is the home of the Maquis and one of the few the free countries in Europe. Predictably, it is attacked and destroyed by the Chimera halfway through the game.
  • In Swarm on the Somme, Luxembourg gets invaded and trashed severely by the Grex, but it has enough survivors (taking shelter in Germany) to potentially renew the country once the conflict ends. They are also determined to help the German (and later Entente) militaries with the reclamation of their homeland.
  • In the music video for 16 Military Wives by The Decemberists, where every person is representing a country, America (Colin Meloy) declares war on Luxembourg (Chris Funk).
  • In the Discworld, as the series and the concepts evolved, including one-for-one mapping of Discworld states with "Roundworld" equivalents, it is strongly hinted that the Grand Duchy of Sto Helit, a "pocket state" relatively close to Ankh-Morpork (England) is the Discworld Luxembourg.
  • In Tada Never Falls in Love, the fictional European country of Larsenberg where the main heroine, Teresa Wagner came from was pretty obviously based on Luxembourg, down to their national flag below.
  • Volume 12 of Infinite Stratos reveals that Luxembourg is the sole source of "time crystals" which are an essential component in the manufacturing of IS cores. It also introduces a New Transfer Student, Princess Iris of Luxembourg and her personal IS "Seventh Princess."

The Luxembourger flag
The flag was first introduced during the Belgian Revolution, and its red-white-blue color scheme is similar to that used by the Netherlands, though with the red and especially the blue having a lighter shade.

Coat of arms of Luxembourg
The coat of arms is based on the coat of arms of the Duchy of Limburg (in what is now Liège Province in Belgium)

The Luxembourger national anthem

Wou d'Uelzecht durech d'Wisen zéit,
Duerch d'Fielsen d'Sauer brécht,
Wou d'Rief laanscht d'Musel dofteg bléit,
Den Himmel Wäin ons mécht:
Dat as onst Land, fir dat mer géif
Hei nidden alles won,
Ons Heemechtsland dat mir so déif
An onsen Hierzer dron.

O Du do uewen, deen seng Hand
Duerch d'Welt d'Natioune leet,
Behitt Du d'Lëtzebuerger Land
Vru friemem Joch a Leed;
Du hues ons all als Kanner schon
De fräie Geescht jo ginn,
Looss viru blénken d'Fräiheetssonn,
Déi mir sou laang gesinn!

Où l'Alzette arrose champs et prés
La Sûre baigne les rochers;
Où la Moselle, riante et belle
Nous fait cadeau du vin
C'est notre pays pour lequel
Nous risquons tout sur terre;
Notr'chère et adorable patrie
Dont notr'âme est remplie.

Ô Toi aux cieux qui nuit et jour
Diriges les nations du monde;
Écarte du pays de Luxembourg
L'oppression étrangère
Enfants nous avons reçu de Toi
L'esprit de la liberté;
Permets au soleil de liberté
De luire à tout jamais.

Wo die Alzette durch die Wiesen zieht,
Durch die Felsen die Sauer bricht,
Die Rebe längs der Mosel blüht,
Der Himmel Wein verspricht:
Dort ist das Land, für dessen Ehr
Kein Opfer uns zu schwer,
Die Heimat, die als teures Gut
In unseren Herzen ruht.

O Du dort droben, dessen Hand
Den Völkern gibt Geleit,
Behüt das Luxemburger Land
Vor fremdem Joch, vor Leid!
Als Kind empfingen wir von Dir
Den freiheitlichen Sinn,
Die Freiheitssonne, unsre Zier,
Lass leuchten fernerhin!

Where the Alzette through meadows flow,
And pebbles the Sauer mow,
Along the Moselle bloom the vines,
As Heav'n gifts us wine:
This is the land, for honour whose,
No ordeal proves too great:
Our homeland which could never lose,
Our hearts' rank and rate.

O Thou above, who night and day,
Guides nations with thine own hand,
Guard this, our Luxembourger land,
From alien yoke and pain!
As children, thou us bestowed,
A spirit, free, unbowed,
Let once more freedom's sun,
For now and all time glow!

  • Unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy
    • Monarch: Henri
    • Prime Minister: Xavier Bettel
    • Co-Deputy Prime Ministers: François Bausch and Dan Kersch

  • Capital and largest city: Luxembourg City
  • Population: 633,622
  • Area: 2,586.4 km² (998.6 sq mi) (167th)
  • Currency: Euro (€) (EUR)
  • ISO-3166-1 Code: LU
  • Country calling code: 352
  • Highest point: Kneiff (560 m/1,837 ft) (177th)
  • Lowest point: Moselle River (133 m/436 ft) (58th)