Switzerland (German: Schweiz, Italian: Svizzera, French: Suisse, Romansh: Svizra), officially known as the Swiss Confederation (Latin: Confoederatio Helvetica, which is why Swiss cars are distinguished by a CH sticker and the Swiss top level domain is .ch), is a country located in Central Europe and Western Europe. It has four official languages (counting the very small Romansch-speaking population - the others are French, German and Italian), holds referenda all the time on many things and has not been involved in a war anywherenote since 1815. It's one of the richest countries (per capita) in the world.
Switzerland is not a member of The European Union, but it is a member of the European Free Trade Association, so it is a part of the Schengen Area and practices an open border policy with its neighbors. It still has its own currency (the franc), which has become strong to the point of challenging the Euro, in part due to the debt issue (though it has always been a very strong currency). The Swiss also didn't join the United Nations until 2002, though the UN did have an office in Geneva long before then.
That's not really fair on the Swiss (they didn't even invent the cuckoo clock—it comes from Swabia in Germany, which in turn is a link to how the Swiss Confederation was founded), but they do have a strong tradition in making clocks. They also produced the Geneva Conventions and the International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, among other things.note They also arguably influenced federalism, their system of government being one of several that inspired the writing of the US Constitution - and funnily enough they influenced the Australian Constitution as well.
There are actually two companies that produce MacGyver's favourite device for the Swiss military (who as usual refuse to play favourites between them, and split the order equally) — Victorinox ("The Original Swiss Army Knife") and Wenger ("The Genuine Swiss Army Knife"). The former now owns the latter, but the two brands remain. In addition to pocket-knives, Switzerland is famous for the production of finely-crafted mechanical watches by such brands as Breitling and Omega, and the country is also renowned the world over for making some of the finest milk chocolate anywhere, with modern milk chocolate and white chocolate in general originating from the country.
HistoryThe Federal Charter of 1291 is one of the oldest surviving written documents of an alliance between Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden, the founding cantons of the Old Swiss Confederacy. These cantons were suspicious of Habsburg influence as the dynasty had home territories in what would become Switzerland, including the Aargau with Habsburg Castle (the very castle which gave the dynasty its name).
These cantons were part of the Holy Roman Empire (and would remain so until the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, although they were highly autonomous after the Treaty of Basel in 1499). Under the reigns of Rudolf I and Albert I (the first two "Kings of Germany" from the Habsburgs), the cantons were heavily taxed as the monarchs fought to be crowned as the Holy Roman Emperor. Neither succeeded, and when another struggle for the crown between Louis (Ludwig), Duke of Bavaria and the Habsburg Frederick the Fair began in the 1310s, the cantons knew who to support. In retaliation, Frederick's brother Leopold led a force to subdue the proto-Swiss alliance. He was decisively defeated at the battle of Morgarten in 1315.
Over the next two centuries, the Confederacy steadily expanded. The original home territories of the Habsburgs were eventually lost later in the 14th century; the battle of Sempach in 1386 even killed the Habsburg Duke Leopold III. Habsburg Castle itself was finally lost to the Swiss in 1415.
- Bern, in the central-western part of the country, is the Federal City and seat of its government. The vast majority here are German-speakers.
- Zurich, in the northern part of the country, is the largest city with the largest airport and seat to many big companies and many of the famous banks. Also majority-German-speaking.
- Geneva, on the westernmost tip, is home to the ICRC and other international organizations as well as a good number of embassies of other countries. CERN (Europe's principal particle research facility) and its famous Large Hadron Collider are at the city's outskirts and straddle the French border. The main language here is French. Although the common English name for the lake it sits on is "Lake Geneva", it's actually Lac Leman, no matter what Deep Purple might say.
- Montreux, at the other end of Lac Leman from Geneva, is home to the world famous Jazz Festival, still going strong today. Primarily French-speaking. Has a notable statue of Freddie Mercury on the waterfront.
- Davos, in the eastern part of the country not far from the border with Austria, is the venue of the World Economic Forum. Primary language is German.
- Lausanne, in the southwestern part of the country, is home to several sports federations, most notably the International Olympic Committee. Primarily French-speaking.
- Basel, in the northwest on the Rhine at the point where Switzerland, France, and Germany meet, is central to the chemical industry and being the host for large art exhibitions and jewelry/watch trade shows. Mostly German-speaking.
The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement originates in Switzerland, being founded by a Swiss businessman horrified by the lack of basic battlefield medical care during the Austro-Sardinian War.
The movement, also responsible for the Geneva Conventions, is the most famous humanitarian organisation.
The symbols of the organisation are protected under the Geneva Conventions from any other use bar actual non-partial wartime medical provision, which means the ICRC tends to get rather annoyed when they're used as generic medical symbols. This is fairly frequent.
- In The Living Daylights, the bad guys disguise narcotics as ICRC aid parcels. The ICRC reported it to the authorities, but the charges weren't proceeded with by UK prosecutors. One VHS release of the movie has a disclaimer pointing out the major illegality - nay, war crime, of what the bad guys do.
The Swiss Armed Forces (who actually have patrol boats) are a rather unique military. The Swiss military, as well as being pretty high-tech, is a trained militia, who keep their automatic rifles at home, though the ammunition is kept in military armories. Once people leave, they can keep the guns (as of recently, only until a certain age unless certain criteria are met), but they have to be rendered semi-auto only and a weapon acquisition permit is required.
Switzerland thus has a very high gun ownership rate, but you need a permit to buy weapons and ammo. In addition, concealed carry permits are issued sparingly and with several restrictions. The association of firearms with military service and professional training, along with these restrictions, means that despite having such high gun ownership, Switzerland has a rather low rate of gun crimes.
95% of Swiss have beds available for them in a nuclear bomb shelter, and new buildings were required to either include one or have access to a public one. Switzerland is rich like that. (And has a lot of stone mountainsides to dig into.)
In addition, the country also is said to defend, though no one ever signed a treaty, a mini-state in the form of Liechtenstein, which the Swiss tend to accidentally invade every so often due to navigation errors by soldiers on training exercises. Due to the country's small size, their military aircraft are also somewhat known for occasionally overshooting Swiss airspace into neighbouring countries, though it's much more a source of humour than it is of any international tension.
Switzerland is also famous for its tasty chocolate and Swiss Cheese. To a lesser extent, precision machinery, especially watches. With few natural resources, the country has always focused on importing raw materials, making high quality wares out of them and exporting the results.
The place is fairly easy to defend—with the exception of Basel (which is situated in the Rhine valley), Switzerland is surrounded by high mountains and a lake and the few tunnels can be easily closed in a war.
For a very long time in works of fiction, Switzerland was primarily referred to for its "Numbered Swiss Account", the favorite hiding place of illicit money. Switzerland no longer (as of 2005) protects the confidentiality of numbered accounts from other governments (at least the United States), though it still has control over the matter. This change in policy impacted the international pursuit of terrorists.
As of late however, Switzerland has increasingly become known for anonymous and secure data protection, protecting clients' digital information in a similar if updated manner to the old "Numbered Swiss Account".
Switzerland is famous for its love of direct democracy, holding frequent referenda on a wide variety of issues, including a highly controversial one that passed to ban minarets. This is also the main reason why Switzerland hasn't joined the EU, since the idea of giving up this direct means to influence politics didn't sit well with voters.
Famous Swiss People
- Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris, better known as Le Corbusier. An architect from Neuchâtel who moved to France and became French as fast as he could). One of the pioneers of what is now called modern architecture, he designed United Nations headquarters and many other beautiful buildings; also responsible for the Brutalist style, which developed into something rather different.
- Celtic Frost, one of the most influential and important bands in Extreme Metal.
- Ursula Andress, actress, model, and sex symbol.
- Sébastien Buemi, former Formula One driver, 4 time Le Mans winner, and 2014 Formula E champion.
- Henri Dunant, the founder of the Red Cross, the logo of which is an inversion of the Swiss flag.
- Leonhard Euler, mathematician, physicist, astronomer, logician and engineer.
- Roger Federer, 20-Grand Slam-winning Tennis player, former World No. 1.
- Bruno Ganz, a renowned German language film, theatre and television actor.
- H. R. Giger, surrealist painter and sculptor. Most notably, he is the creator of the Xenomorph design.
- Martina Hingis (though she was born in Slovakia), 5-time Grand Slam champion.
- Carl Jung, psychiatrist and psychoanalyst and founder of analytical psychology.
- Stéphane Lambiel, Olympic silver medalist and two-time world champion figure skater.
- Vincent Perez, actor and director.
- Hermann Rorschach, inventor of the Inkblot Test.
- Jean-Jacques Rousseau, one of the leading philosophers of The Enlightenment, was born in Geneva and moved to France.
- American children's author/illustrator Richard Scarry set up his studio in Gstaad in 1972; much of the architecture and clothing in his work (such as Huckle's lederhosen) has an Alpine feel to it.
- Tina Turner, originally from Nutbush, Tenneseee, lived in Switzerland from 1994 to her death in 2023. As Switzerland does not allow dual citizenship, this required her to renounce her American citizenship and she became a Swiss citizen in 2013.
- Paracelsus, full name Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, a Renaissance-era physician, alchemist, and astronomer.
- Claudio Castagnoli, Swiss professional wrestler who became famous in the U.S. in CHIKARA and Ring of Honor before a long run with WWE as Cesaro. He's now back to using his real name in AEW, also making appearances in ROH (which is now an AEW sister promotion).
Switzerland in Diplomacy
Due to Switzerland's permanently neutral status, they have not been in a war since 1815 (when Napoléon Bonaparte invaded the country). Neutrality also keeps Switzerland out of many international organizations; it refuses to join the EU in part out of respect for its neutrality policynote , and refused to join the United Nations until 2002 despite hosting the European offices of many UN institutions.
Ironically, despite being by far the best-known example of a historically neutral country, Switzerland did not become the country with the longest record of neutrality until 2022, when Sweden ended itsnote neutrality and applied to join NATO. Sweden had been officially neutral since 1814, one year before Switzerland.
Switzerland in fiction
- Switzerland is one of the nation-tans in Hetalia: Axis Powers.
- Heidi, Girl of the Alps, 1974 anime series.
- The manga Wolfsmund is a Historical Fiction retelling of the country's founding, with the 1315 Battle of Morgarten as its grand finale.
- In Diplomacy, Switzerland is an impassable territory- one of the few in the game, including Ireland. Units may not enter it at all.
- Asterix in Switzerland. Asterix and Obelix go to Helvetia to find and bring an edelweiss in order to save a Quaestor who was poisoned. Along the way, we see several things associated with Switzerland, like the cuckoo clock, Swiss cheese, William Telling and Lake Geneva.
- Third Man on the Mountain
- Es geschah am hellichten Tag, a Swiss-German crime thriller about a pedophile serial killer roaming the Alps. Scripted (and later turned into a novel) by Friedrich Dürrenmatt.
- In The Bourne Identity, the protagonist makes his way to Switzerland as a Swiss Bank Account is the first clue he has as to his identity.
- A satirical version called "New Swissland" is the home country of Captain Underpants villain Professor Poopypants, a country where everyone has a silly name.
- William Tell
- The title character of Frankenstein is "by birth, a Genevese."
- Heidi, one of the internationally best known books from Switzerland.
- The Swiss Family Robinson: Doesn't take place in Switzerland, but it is kind of, you know, about a Swiss family.
- The Fear Index is based in the city of Geneva. For a couple of reasons, it's a tax haven for the super rich (at least compared to the UK), it's the location of CERN and as such has extremely fast internet connections with the rest of the world.
- In most Video Games where a map of Europe is present, Switzerland is usually deemed neutral territory and cannot be entered. One notable exception being recent Command & Conquer games, both Tiberium Wars and Red Alert 3 have missions in Switzerland.
- Crusader Kings II allows a vassal of the Holy Roman Empire to found Switzerland if they meet certain prerequisites (mainly controlling the counties of Bern, Schwyz, Neuchatel, Zurichgau, Basel, Thurgau, Vaud, and Chur).
- Europa Universalis is another exception that almost goes without saying; you can indeed play as Switzerland. Of course, the game's timeline antedates the country's famous neutrality. A bug in the 3.0 release would sometimes give huge tracts of New World colonies to Switzerland, much to the amusement of After-Action Report writers.
- Out to Lunch!: The first world takes place here.
- The first flashback mission in The Bourne Conspiracy takes place at Zurich International Airport as Bourne attempts to assassinate a Turkish war criminal.
- The penultimate mission of Syphon Filter: The Omega Strain takes place in Zurich.
- The Gran Turismo series has a number of race tracks in Switzerland. All appear to be road courses (Grindelwald, Eiger Nordwand, Matterhorn, Deep Forest Raceway) or dirt courses (Swiss Alps, other Eiger Nordwand tracks).
- A late-game part of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is set here at a G.A.R.M. facility.
- On AlternateHistory.com, using stereotypes related to Switzerland's neutrality and supposed isolationism in Alternate History stories is commonly regarded as cliché. Notably, one of the most widespread Alternate History clichés is that Switzerland is uninteresting and nothing happens there or that it can't ever be invaded by anyone (á la Diplomacy), no matter the era or reasons.
- Speaking of AH.com, there are several timelines which try to avert the above clichés and feature the country in meaningful ways. A notable example is Protect and Survive: A Timeline, in which the Swiss are among the better off European countries after a nuclear war in late February 1984 decimates civilization. They even try to help the less fortunate European countries as much as they can, providing them with surplus supplies and valuable intel. In the post-war world, they become a power to be reckoned with. Another TL that uses Switzerland in an interesting way is The Smallest Difference Possible.
- Totally Spies!: The main villain of Passion Patties is a Swiss cookie maker named Dr. Inga Bittersweet. However, the name Inga sounds more Swedish.
The Swiss Flag
Coat of arms of Switzerland
The Swiss national anthem
- Federal semi-direct democracy under a multi-party assembly-independent directorial republic
- Federal Council: Viola Amherd (President), Karin Keller-Sutter (Vice President), Ignazio Cassis, Albert Rösti, Élisabeth Baume-Schneider, Beat Jans
- Federal Chancellor: Viktor Rossi
- Capital: None (de jure), Bern (de facto)
- Largest city: Zürich
- Population: 8,570,146
- Area: 41,285 sq km (15,940 sq mi) (132nd)
- Currency: Swiss franc (Fr) (CHF)
- ISO-3166-1 Code: CH
- Country calling code: 41
- Highest point: Monte Rosa (4634 m/15,203 ft) (30th)
- Lowest point: Lake Maggiore (193 m/633 ft) (61st)