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The Principality of Liechtenstein (pronounced LEEK-ten-shtine) is a small landlocked country in central Europe, bordered by Switzerland to its west and by Austria to its east. Being mountainous, it is a winter sports resort. It is also known as a tax haven.

Fürstentum Liechtenstein
(In Detail) ()
National motto: None
Official languageGerman
PrinceHans-Adam II
Head of GovernmentOtmar Hasler
 - Total
 - % water
World ranking 189th
160 km²
 - Total (2000)
 - Density
World ranking 187th
CurrencySwiss Franc (CHF)
Time zoneCET (UTC+1; UTC+2 in summer)
National anthemOben am jungen Rhein
Internet TLD.li
Calling Code+423

Table of contents
1 History
2 Politics
3 Communities
4 Geography
5 Economy
6 Demographics
7 Miscellaneous topics
8 External links


Main article: History of Liechtenstein

The modern territory of Liechtenstein was at one time an (albeit diminutive) part of the ancient Roman province of Raetia. For centuries this territory, geographically removed from European strategic interests, made little impact on the tide of European history. Prior to current dynasty, the region was enfiefed to a junior line of the House of Hapsburg. The current ruling House of Liechtenstein originating in far away Silesia.

The Liechtenstein dynasty, from which the Principality takes its name (rather than vice-versa) was among the wealthiest of the late medieval German noble families. However, and although they owned vast swathes of land in the German area, all these expansive territories were held in fief under other more senior feudal lords, particularly under various lines of the Hapsburg family. Thus, and without any territory held directly under the Imperial throne, the Liechtenstein dynasty was unable to meet a primary requirement to qualify for a seat in the Imperial diet, the Reichstag.

The family yearned for the added power which a seat in the Imperial government would garner, and therefore it searched for a land acquisition which would be "unmittelbar" or held without any feudal personage other than the Emperor having rights on the land. After some time, the family was able to arrange the purchase of the miniscule counties of Schellenburg and Vaduz in 1699 and 1712 respectively from an agnatic line of the Hapsburg dynasty. Tiny Schellenburg and Vaduz possesed exactly the political status required, no feudal lord other than their comital sovereign and the suzerain Emperor.

Thereby, on January 23, 1719 after purchase had been duly made, Emperor Charles VI decreed that the counties of Vaduz and Schellenberg be raised to the dignity of principality with the name Liechtenstein in honor of his 'true servant, Anton Florian of Liechtenstein'. It is on this date that Liechtenstein became a sovereign state of the Holy Roman Empire. Ironically, but as testament to the pure political-expediency of the purchases, the Princes of Liechtenstein never set foot in their new principality for several decades.

In 1806, the Holy Roman Empire was invaded by France. This event had broad consequences for Liechtenstein. Imperial legal and political mechanisms broke down, while the Holy Roman Emperor abdicated. The Empire itself dissoved. As a result, Liechtenstein ceased having any obligations to any feudal lord beyond its borders. Modern publications generally (although incorrectly) attribute Liechtenstein's 'sovereignty' to these events. In reality, its prince merely became suzerain as well as remaining sovereign lord.

Until the end of World War I, Liechtenstein was closely tied to Austria, but the economic devastation caused by that conflict forced the country to conclude a customs and monetary union with Switzerland. During world war II, Liechtenstein remained neutral, while family treasures within the war zone were brought to Liechtenstein (and London) for safe keeping. At the close of the conflict, Czechoslovakia and Poland, acting to seize "German" possessions, exapropriated the entirety of the Liechtenstein dynasty's hereditary lands and possessions in Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia. The exapropriations (subject to modern legal dispute at the World Court) included over 1,600 km² of farm and forestland along with several family castles and palaces. It is thus little wonder that during the decades of the cold war, citizens of Liechtenstein were forbidden by Czechoslovakia from even entering that country.

In financial straits following the war, the Liechtenstein dynasty often resorted to selling family artistic treasures, including for instance Da Vinci's priceless portrait "Ginevra de Benci", which was purchased by the United States government. However, the economic condition of Liechtenstein rapidly improved. During the decades following, Liechtenstein prospered, its economy quickly modernizing with the advantage of low corporate tax rates which drew many companies to the country.

The Prince of Liechtenstein is among the world's wealthiest heads-of-state with an estimated wealth of some 2 billion dollars. The country's population enjoys one of the world's highest standards-of-living.


Main article: Politics of Liechtenstein

Liechtenstein is a parliamentary democracy, headed by the prince, or Fürst;, currently Hans-Adam II of Liechtenstein, who succeeded his father after his death in 1989.

The parliament of Liechtenstein, the Landtag, consists of 25 representatives chosen by the people. A cabinet of five men and women is responsible for taking care of daily political matters.

In a referendum on July 1, 1984, male voters granted women the right to vote in national (but not local) elections: a victory for Prince Hans-Adam who had supported the legislation.

Unlike many other constitutional monarchies, the constitution of Liechtenstein gives many important powers to the Prince, some of which have caused controversy in recent years.

Critics were however largely discredited when a March 2003 popular referundum bolstered the Liechtenstein dynasty's constitutional position. Prior to the referendum, Prince Hans-Adam had announced that he and his family would relocate to Vienna, Austria leaving Liechtenstein to become a republic if the House's constitutional rights were curbed. The referendum confirmed the broad popularity of the Liechtenstein dynasty and the populace's faith in the Prince Hans-Adam as leader.


Main article: Communities of Liechtenstein

Liechtenstein is divided into eleven communities (Gemeinden - singular Gemeinde), most consisting of only a single town. These are:


Main article: Geography of Liechtenstein

Liechtenstein is situated in the Rhine valley in the Alps. The entire western border of Liechtenstein is formed by this river. The eastern part of the country is located at higher altitude, the highest point being the Grauspitz, at 2,599 m (8,527 ft.).

Despite its alpine location, prevailing southerly winds make the climate of Liechtenstein rather mild. In winter, the mountain slopes are well suited to winter sports.

Liechtenstein is one of only two double landlocked countries in the world, i.e. a country that is surrounded by other landlocked contries. The other example is Uzbekistan.


Main article: Economy of Liechtenstein

Despite its small size and limited natural resources, Liechtenstein has developed into a prosperous, highly industrialised, free-enterprise economy with a vital financial service sector and living standards on a par with those of the urban areas of its large European neighbours. Low business taxes – the maximum tax rate is 18% – and easy incorporation rules have induced about 73,700 holding or so-called letter box companies to establish nominal offices in Liechtenstein, providing 30% of state revenues.

The country participates in a customs union with Switzerland and uses the Swiss franc as its national currency. It imports more than 90% of its energy requirements. Liechtenstein has been a member of the European Economic Area (an organisation serving as a bridge between the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and the European Union) since May 1995. The government is working to harmonise its economic policies with those of an integrated Europe.


Main article: Demographics of Liechtenstein

Liechtenstein is the fourth smallest country of Europe, after the Vatican City, Monaco, and San Marino. Its resident population is approximately one-third foreigners, mainly Germans, Austrians and Swiss.

The official language is German, though most speak an Alemannic dialect of German. About 76% of the population is Roman Catholic, 7% is Protestant.

Apart from the prince, the most famous person from Liechtenstein is Hanni Wenzel, of German origin, who won two Olympic titles in 1980 in alpine skiing.

Miscellaneous topics

External links

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