Liechtenstein, is a doubly landlocked alpine country in Central Europe, bordered by Switzerland to the west and south and by Austria to the east and north. Its area is just over 160 square kilometres (62 square miles), and it has an estimated population of 35,000. Its capital is Vaduz. The biggest town is Schaan. Liechtenstein has thehighest gross domestic product per person in the world when adjusted by purchasing power parity. Liechtenstein also has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the world at 1.5%.
Liechtenstein is the smallest yet the richest (by measure of GDP per capita) German-speaking country and the only country to lie entirely within the Alps. It is known as a principality as it is a constitutional monarchy headed by a prince. Liechtenstein is divided into 11 municipalities. Much of its terrain is mountainous, making it a winter sports destination. Many cultivated fields and small farms characterize its landscape both in the south (Oberland, upper land) and in the north (Unterland, lower land). The country has a strong financial sector located in the capital, Vaduz, and has been identified as a tax haven. It is a member of the European Free Trade Association and part of the European Economic Area and the Schengen Area, but not of the European
At one time, the territory was part of the ancient Roman province of Raetia. For centuries this territory, geographically removed from European strategic interests, had little impact on European history. Prior to the reign of its current dynasty, the region was enfeoffed to a line of the counts of Hohenems.
The Liechtenstein dynasty, from which the principality takes its name, comes from Castle Liechtenstein in Lower Austria, which the family possessed from at least 1140 until the 13th century, and from 1807 onward. Through the centuries, the dynasty acquired vast tracts of land, predominantly in Moravia, Lower Austria, Silesia, and Styria, though these territories were all held in fief under other more senior feudal lords, particularly under various lines of the Habsburg family, whom several Liechtenstein princes served as close advisers. Thus, 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 (parliament), the Reichstag.
The family yearned for the added power a seat in the Imperial government would bring and therefore sought to acquire lands that would be unmittelbar, or held without any feudal personage other than the Holy Roman Emperor having rights on the land. After some time, the family was able to arrange the purchase of the minuscule Herrschaft(“Lordship”) of Schellenberg and county of Vaduz (in 1699 and 1712 respectively) from the Hohenems. Tiny Schellenberg and Vaduz had exactly the political status required: no feudal lord other than their comital sovereign and the suzerain Emperor.
Modern publications generally attribute Liechtenstein’s sovereignty to these events. Its prince ceased to owe obligations to any suzerain. From 25 July 1806 when the Confederation of the Rhine was founded, the Prince of Liechtenstein was a member, in fact a vassal of its hegemon, styled protector, the French Emperor Napoleon I, until the dissolution of the confederation on 19 October 1813.
Soon afterward, Liechtenstein joined the German Confederation (20 June 1815 – 24 August 1866) which was presided over by the Emperor of Austria.
Then, in 1818, Johann I granted the territory a limited constitution. 1818 also saw the first visit of a member of the house of Liechtenstein, Prince Alois; however, the first visit by a sovereign prince would not occur until 1842.
Developments during the 19th century included:
• In 1836, the first factory was opened, making ceramics.
• In 1861, the Savings and Loans Bank was founded, as was the first cotton-weaving mill.
• Two bridges over the Rhine were built in 1868, and in 1872 a railway line across Liechtenstein was constructed.
Liechtenstein is situated in the Upper Rhine valley of the European Alps and is bordered to the east by Austria and to the south and west by Switzerland. The entire western border of Liechtenstein is formed by the Rhine. Measured south to north the country is about 24 km (15 mi) long. Its highest point, the Grauspitz, is 2,599 m (8,527 ft). Despite its Alpine location, prevailing southerly winds make the climate of Liechtenstein comparatively mild. In winter, the mountain slopes are well suited to winter sports.
New surveys using more accurate measurements of the country’s borders in 2006 have set its area at 160 km2 (61.776 sq mi), with borders of 77.9 km (48.4 mi). Thus, Liechtenstein discovered in 2006 that its borders are 1.9 km (1.2 mi) longer than previously thought.
Liechtenstein is one of only two doubly landlocked countries in the world—being a landlocked country wholly surrounded by other landlocked countries (the other is Uzbekistan). Liechtenstein is the sixth-smallest independent nation in the world by land area.
The principality of Liechtenstein is divided into 11 communes called Gemeinden (singular Gemeinde). The Gemeinden mostly consist only of a single town or village. Five of them (Eschen, Gamprin, Mauren, Ruggell, and Schellenberg) fall within the electoral district Unterland(the lower county), and the remainder (Balzers, Planken, Schaan, Triesen, Triesenberg, and Vaduz) within Oberland (the upper county).
Liechtenstein has a continental climate featuring cold, cloudy winters with frequent snow or rain, making the country a moderately popular ski destination. Summers are cool to moderately warm, also often cloudy and humid.