“Switzerland’s golden secret: How a poor European country became a paradise
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In what era is it more difficult to remain autonomous – when territorial and religious wars are raging, or when the world is under the influence of globalization? Switzerland has fought for independence in all conditions and at all times in history, but what has been the history of this struggle? How did one of the poorest European states become a paradise? How independent was Switzerland in its quest for independence?
How did Switzerland become an independent country?
Switzerland was located in such a way that it should not be left out of the most important historical processes in Europe. In fact, the history of the alpine valleys dates back to Neanderthal man’s standing here 250,000 years ago. In ancient times, these lands played a role of a buffer zone between the Roman Empire and the tribes of northern Europe. At that time Celts, Helvets and Rhaetians, a people with family connections to the Etruscans, lived in what is now Switzerland. In the Alpine valleys they farmed and raised livestock, fished in the rivers and lakes, but the obvious scarcity of minerals and the lack of access to the sea had an impact – the territory was valued mainly for its advantageous location in the heart of Europe.
Zurich, a city that already existed in Roman times, along with Basel, Geneva, Lausanne and Aventicum (now Avanche)
In 15 BC the future Swiss territory was annexed to the Roman Empire, and after the fall of the Roman Empire it was ruled by Germanic tribes – the Allemanns – who set up many small kingdoms in Europe. Switzerland’s unification took place under Charlemagne, and very soon the future territory of Switzerland was divided between several kings and emperors. At that time independence was out of the question. For the next three centuries the Alpine country was under the growing power of the Holy Roman Empire, a power at times quite nominal, especially in the north, where local rulers had great influence, including the Habsburgs, one of the greatest monarchical dynasties in the history of Europe.
Trade was gradually developing, more and more roads were being built to ferry goods from one end of Europe to the other, and the Alps allowed access from the Mediterranean coast to the north and back again. For both the Holy Roman Emperors and the Habsburgs, these Alpine valleys meant too much, but the population sought to defend itself against their claims.
In 1291 a military treaty was signed between the three cantons or states – Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden. This alliance was proclaimed “in perpetuity”. The cantons and the villages in them undertook to help each other with advice and deeds, personally and in kind, in their own lands and outside them, against any and all who would want to harm them all or any one of them. Interestingly, it was not the rulers or kings who made the agreement – there were no kings in the cantons – but those whom the inhabitants elected as their representatives. Perhaps that was the secret of its inviolability and durability. Be that as it may, the motto of the Swiss State is still Dumas’ musketeers’ cry: “One for all, and all for one!
Attempts to conquer Switzerland did not cease, but gradually its territory increased and the number of cantons grew. The Swiss were able to defend their territory to the utmost, as is evident from the many well-preserved forts and military installations.
A monument to William Tell, the legendary symbol of Swiss independence, whose existence enthusiasts are trying to prove
Who enabled Switzerland to become independent?
As Switzerland grew more and more independent from its powerful neighbors, its influence on the European economy increased. From the 16th century onward, the country came into being as an independent state. But its independence had its origins primarily in an agreement by the major powers to leave behind a degree of autonomy that suited everyone and gave the country an opportunity to avoid tedious conflicts.
In 1648 the independence of the country was officially confirmed by the Treaty of Westphalia – between the Republic of the United Provinces, the Holy Roman Empire, Sweden, France, Spain and Switzerland itself. Since then, the state has chosen to avoid wars, and this, together with the lack of costs for the maintenance of the royal court, contributed to the release of a huge amount of resources. A tradition arose of providing mercenary soldiers to other countries, which at the same time gave the state additional financial revenues. Taxation was abolished in some regions, and manufacturing was in full swing. The Swiss mastered the manufacture of textiles, especially silk and muslin, and the intricate mechanisms which would later make the Swiss artisans famous the world over.
But for a long time Switzerland was a tight-knit community. Each canton was under the sway of a few rich families, which gave rise to popular discontent and revolts. The French Revolution was followed by the Swiss Revolution, which led to the creation of a centralised Helvetic Republic, but which failed to find popular support. The Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte approved a new constitution for Switzerland and brought back federalism and the self-government of the cantons. In 1815 Switzerland was proclaimed an autonomous state, neutral from France.
The 19th century was a time for the state to settle its internal conflicts, particularly the religious confrontation between Catholics and Protestants.
The “golden” secret of independence
Now, in the twenty-first century, when it comes to the reasons for Switzerland’s economic success, the list begins with the disadvantages, “from the contrary”. Lack of mineral deposits, little opportunity for agriculture, no access to the sea, more than two-thirds of the territory is covered by mountains. And so it is; historically, the Swiss have been given very little, and so it was obvious to them that the most important and valuable thing they could make use of is the people themselves.
The Swiss have managed to preserve so many monuments thanks to the absence of war on their territory.
Few other places in Europe have had such a craftsmen’s training system – through guilds and apprenticeships. The Swiss had long since learned to take part in important political decisions, even the most important national issues which were put to a vote. One of them was, for example, to officially forbid the construction of new minarets in the country, and the few that had already been erected by the time of the referendum stopped fulfilling their function of calling for prayer: in this way the citizens ensured their right to silence.
The famous Swiss knives are made in red – so that if you drop them you can easily spot them in the snow.
It is believed that the source of the state’s wealth is the unclaimed money left in the banks by the Nazis and their victims after World War II. But this is more of a legend. We have to admit that the national budget of this country is many thousands of times greater than the most audacious figures that could reflect the amounts of “forgotten” deposits.
During the two world wars of the last century, Switzerland managed to maintain its independent position, although its declared neutrality was armed. The Swiss were tough on foreign policy, and they were good at war. Admittedly, this state of affairs also played into the hands of the other more powerful parties to the conflict – otherwise it was unlikely that the army of this small country, no matter how well trained and motivated, could defend its sovereignty. Because Switzerland has not been at war for centuries, it has been able to preserve not only its historical heritage but also the infrastructure it has developed.
We can assume that the country will continue to maintain its status as a rich country – the Swiss, as before, work hard and work well, and therefore do not lose the reputation of its famous cheeses, watches, chocolates and knives.
The famous Swiss fondue is an echo of a long-standing peasant tradition of eating leftover bread and cheese this way.
It is still neutral – and still armed: all men between the ages of 19 and 31 are obliged to do the military service for a total of 260 days, spread over ten years. True, everyone has the option of replacing their personal presence in the Swiss Armed Forces with monetary compensation – at the rate of 3% of their salary during their due period of service.
And why the Swiss consider Alexander Suvorov their national hero – here.
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Switzerland is a beautiful, developed country located between Germany, France, Italy and Austria. It also borders Liechtenstein. Thank you to the author for the interesting information about this European country.
The article about Switzerland is more like a curious picture than reveals the subject.
Quote: “It is believed that the source of the state’s wealth is the unclaimed money after World War II, which was left in the banks by the Nazis and their victims. But this is more of a legend. We have to admit that the national budget of this country is many thousands of times greater than the most audacious figures that could reflect the amounts of “forgotten” deposits. Source: https://kulturologia.ru/blogs/251019/44498/”
The victims of the Nazis were Jews who hid their money in Swiss banks and were destroyed by the Nazis. Not all surviving relatives knew the numbers of these accounts. The article does not cite the magnitude of the Swiss m-budget by year. Therefore, the content of this quote is demagogy. Most of the Nazis and their relatives survived and they quietly took their deposits. The author did not write a few facts about Switzerland: – Germany throughout WW2 paid neutral countries (Spain, Portugal, Turkey, Sweden) with gold seized in conquered countries and from murdered Jews. In particular, gold from gold crowns from murdered Jews was added to bank gold. The gold of the crowns was of a lower grade than the bank gold. Swiss banks accepted this gold and paid for it. Naturally, the Swiss determined the grade of the gold they were buying. I wonder what percentage they charged Germany for this gold? – Germany had an underground trade in art and jewelry taken from murdered Jews with the rest of the world. The trade could go through neutral Switzerland, which had to take a percentage, which allowed such trade to take place on its territory or through its territory. – German citizens were free to visit Switzerland. But German Jews were not allowed in Switzerland. To distinguish them from the Germans, Switzerland asked the Nazis to stamp “Jude” in the passports of German Jews. So Switzerland is a direct collaborator of the Nazis in the extermination of the Jews. – The Red Cross was founded in Switzerland. Its center is in Switzerland. It is run by Swiss people. During World War II, the Red Cross did not detect a system of extermination of Jews and Soviet prisoners of war in German concentration camps. Although one such inspection is known to have taken place. American and British POWs had quietly and comfortably survived the war in German camps. So the Swiss hands are in the blood of Jews and Soviet prisoners. I wonder how much the Nazis paid Switzerland to keep its citizens from seeing the extermination and conditions of the Jews and Soviet prisoners of war in German camps? And what proportion of that money is in the Swiss budget? Note: Penknives, cheese and high-end watches plus tourists can’t provide a rich and nourishing life. Especially since agricultural productivity cannot be high in a mountainous country. Where did Switzerland get so much money to become well-fed and rich and could support such a life of handicrafts?
I should add: Swiss banks are known to accept anonymous deposits from all over the world (anonymous officially, the banks themselves know the account holders). German Jews were putting their money into Swiss banks in the hope of their integrity. When the Nazis murdered the Jews (including the Swiss bank account holders), the unclaimed money from these accounts was appropriated by these banks and the state was supposed to get its share (it created these laws). After World War 2, Jewish organizations accused Switzerland of embezzling the money of the annihilated Jews because Switzerland refused to publish the owners of the unclaimed accounts. There was a big scandal. Switzerland paid off with a sum of money. No one will ever know the truth: the documents for the unclaimed Jewish accounts had to be destroyed, and the money was accounted for. It is the same story with the deposits of various scoundrels and dictators of various countries around the world. If a dictator and a bastard were killed and his relatives did not know the account numbers, then the state would collect the money. Plus a percentage for keeping the money. So the hands of the Swiss are stained with the blood of the victims of these scoundrels and dictators. This is the second contribution to the well-fed and rich life of the Swiss.