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Cantons of Switzerland

The 13 cantons of the Old Swiss Confederacy (1513-1798). The 26 cantons of Switzerland are the member states of the federal state of Switzerland. Each canton was a fully sovereign state[1] with its own borders, army and currency from the Treaty of Westphalia (1648) until the establishment of the Swiss federal state in 1848. The most recently created canton is the Canton of Jura, which separated from the Canton of Bern in 1979.[2]

The name is derived from the French language word canton meaning corner or district (from which the term Cantonment is also derived).

Contents


History

In the 16th century, the Old Swiss Confederacy was composed of 13 sovereign cantons, and there were two different kinds: six land (or forest) cantons and seven city (or urban) cantons. Though they were technically part of the Holy Roman Empire, they had become de facto independent when the Swiss defeated Emperor Maximillian in 1499.[3] The six forest cantons were democratic republics, whereas the seven urban cantons were oligarchic republics controlled by noble families.

Constitution

Each canton has its own constitution, legislature, government and courts.[4] Most of the cantons' legislatures are unicameral parliaments, their size varying between 58 and 200 seats. A few legislatures are general assemblies known as Landsgemeinden. The cantonal governments consist of either five or seven members, depending on the canton.[5] For the names of the institutions, see List of legislative and executive councils of the Cantons of Switzerland.

The Swiss Federal Constitution declares the cantons to be sovereign to the extent their sovereignty is not limited by federal law.[4] The cantons also retain all powers and competencies not delegated to the Confederation by the Constitution. Most significantly, the cantons are responsible for healthcare, welfare, law enforcement and public education; they also retain the power of taxation. The cantonal constitutions determine the degree of autonomy accorded to the municipalities, which varies but almost always includes the power to levy taxes and pass municipal laws. The sizes of the cantons vary from 37 km to 7,105 km ; the populations vary from 15,471 to 1,244,400.

Direct democracy

As on the federal level, all cantons provide for (half-) direct democracy. Citizens may demand a popular vote to amend the cantonal constitution or laws, or to veto laws or spending bills passed by the parliament. General popular assemblies (Landsgemeinde) are now limited to the cantons of Appenzell Innerrhoden and Glarus. In all other cantons democratic rights are exercised by secret ballot.

List

The cantons are listed in the order given in the federal constitution.

Coat of
arms
Abbr Canton Since Capital Population Area (km ) Density (per km ) No. munic. Official languages
Coat of arms of Z rich
Coat of arms of Z rich
ZH Zurich 1351 Zurich 701 171 German
Coat of arms of Bern
Coat of arms of Bern
BE Bern 1353 Bern 158 383 German, French
Coat of arms of Luzern
Coat of arms of Luzern
LU Lucerne 1332 Lucerne 233 87 German
Coat of arms of Uri
Coat of arms of Uri
UR Uri 1291[6] Altdorf 33 20 German
Coat of arms of Schwyz
Coat of arms of Schwyz
SZ Schwyz 1291[6] Schwyz 143 30 German
Coat of arms of Obwalden
Coat of arms of Obwalden
OW Obwalden 1291[6] or 1315 (as part of Unterwalden) Sarnen 66 7 German
Coat of arms of Nidwalden
Coat of arms of Nidwalden
NW Nidwalden 1291[6] (as Unterwalden) Stans 138 11 German
Coat of arms of Glarus
Coat of arms of Glarus
GL Glarus 1352 Glarus 51 3 German
Coat of arms of Zug
Coat of arms of Zug
ZG Zug 1352 Zug 416 11 German
Coat of arms of Fribourg
Coat of arms of Fribourg
FR Fribourg 1481 Fribourg 141 167 French, German
Coat of arms of Solothurn
Coat of arms of Solothurn
SO Solothurn 1481 Solothurn 308 122 German
Coat of arms of Basel-City
Coat of arms of Basel-City
BS Basel-Stadt 1501 (as Basel until 1833/1999) Basel 5,072 3 German
Coat of arms of Basel-Country
Coat of arms of Basel-Country
BL Basel-Landschaft 1501/1833[7] Liestal 502 86 German
Coat of arms of Schaffhausen
Coat of arms of Schaffhausen
SH Schaffhausen 1501 Schaffhausen 246 27 German
Coat of arms of Appenzell Ausserrhoden
Coat of arms of Appenzell Ausserrhoden
AR Appenzell Ausserrhoden 1513 [8] Herisau 220 20 German
Coat of arms of Appenzell Innerrhoden
Coat of arms of Appenzell Innerrhoden
AI Appenzell Innerrhoden 1513[8] Appenzell 87 6 German
Coat of arms of St. Gallen
Coat of arms of St. Gallen
SG St. Gallen 1803[9] St. Gallen 222 85 German
Coat of arms of Graub nden
Coat of arms of Graub nden
GR Graub nden 1803[10] Chur 26 180 German, Romansh, Italian
Coat of arms of Aargau
Coat of arms of Aargau
AG Aargau 1803 Aarau 388 220 German
Coat of arms of Thurgau
Coat of arms of Thurgau
TG Thurgau 1803[11] Frauenfeld 229 80 German
Coat of arms of Ticino
Coat of arms of Ticino
TI Ticino 1803[12] Bellinzona 110 157 Italian
Coat of arms of Vaud
Coat of arms of Vaud
VD Vaud 1803[13] Lausanne 188 339 French
Coat of arms of Valais
Coat of arms of Valais
VS Valais 1815[14] Sion 53 143 French, German
Coat of arms of Neuch tel
Coat of arms of Neuch tel
NE Neuch tel 1815/1857[15] Neuch tel 206 53 French
Coat of arms of Geneva
Coat of arms of Geneva
GE Geneva 1815 Geneva 1,442 45 French
Coat of arms of Jura
Coat of arms of Jura
JU Jura 1979[16] Del mont 82 64 French
Coat of arms of Switzerland
Coat of arms of Switzerland
CH Switzerland Bern 7,593,494 174 2,596 German, French, Italian, Romansh

The two-letter abbreviations for Swiss cantons are widely used, e.g. on car license plates. They are also used in the ISO 3166-2 codes of Switzerland with the prefix "CH-" (Conf deratio Helvetica, Switzerland), e.g. CH-SZ for the canton of Schwyz.

Half-cantons

Six of the 26 cantons are traditionally, but no longer officially, called "half-cantons" (, , ), reflecting a history of mutual association or partition.

The half-cantons are identified in the first article of the Swiss Federal Constitution of 1999 by being joined to their other "half" with the conjunction "and": The 1999 constitutional revision retained this distinction, on the request of the six cantonal governments, as a way to mark the historic association of the half-cantons to each other.[17] In contrast, the first article of the 1848 and 1874 constitutions constituted the Confederation as the union of "twenty-two sovereign cantons",[18] referring to the half-cantons as "Unterwalden (above and beneath the woods)", "Basel (city and country)" and "Appenzell (both Rhoden)".[19] While the older constitutions referred to these states as "half-cantons", a term that remains in popular use, the 1999 revision and official terminology since then use the appellation "cantons with half a cantonal vote".[20]

With their mutual association a purely historical matter, the half-cantons are since 1848 equal to the other cantons in all but two respects:[21]

  • They elect only one member of the Council of States instead of two (Cst. art. 150 par. 2).
  • In popular referendums about constitutional amendments, which require for adoption a national popular majority as well as the assent of a majority of the cantons (St ndemehr / majorit des cantons), the result of the half-cantons' popular vote counts only one half of that of the other cantons (Cst. arts. 140, 142). This means that for purposes of a constitutional referendum, at least 12 out of a total of 23 cantonal popular votes must support the amendment.[22]

Caricature of the division of Basel, 1833
Caricature of the division of Basel, 1833
The reasons for the association between the three pairs of half-cantons are varied:

  • Unterwalden never consisted of a single unified jurisdiction. Originally, Obwalden, Nidwalden, and the Abbey of Engelberg formed distinct communities. The collective term Unterwalden remains in use, however, for the area that partook in the creation of the original Swiss confederation in 1291 with Uri and Schwyz. The Federal Charter of 1291 called for representatives from each of the three "areas".[23][24]
  • The canton of Appenzell divided itself into an "inner" and "outer" half ("Rhoden") as a consequence of the Reformation in Switzerland in 1597:[25] Appenzell Innerrhoden (Catholic) and Appenzell Ausserrhoden (Protestant).
  • The canton of Basel divided itself as a consequence of a revolt of the Basel countryside in 1833, in order to promote equality among its citizenry, combating claims between rural and city residents over preferential status:[26] Basel-Landschaft and Basel-Stadt.

Names in national languages

(Names appear in bold when corresponding to the cantonal official language)

Abbr English German French Italian Romansh
AG Aargau (rare: Argovia) Argovie Argovia Argovia
AI Appenzell Innerrhoden (Appenzell Inner-Rhodes) Appenzell Rhodes-Int rieures Appenzello Interno Appenzell dadens
AR Appenzell Ausserrhoden (Appenzell Outer-Rhodes) Appenzell Rhodes-Ext rieures Appenzello Esterno Appenzell dador
BS Basel-City or Basle-City B le-Ville Basilea-Citt Basilea-Citad
BL Basel-Country, Basle-Country, or Basel-Land B le-Campagne Basilea-Campagna Basilea-Champagna
BE Bern, or Berne Berne Berna Berna
FR Fribourg Fribourg Friborgo Friburg
GE Geneva Gen ve Ginevra Genevra
GL Glarus Glaris Glarona Glaruna
GR Graub nden (Grisons) Grisons Grigioni Grischun
JU Jura Jura Giura Giura
LU Lucerne Lucerne Lucerna Lucerna
NE Neuch tel Neuch tel Neuch tel Neuch tel
NW Nidwalden Nidwald Nidvaldo Sutsilvania
OW Obwalden Obwald Obvaldo Sursilvania
SH Schaffhausen (Schaffhouse) Schaffhouse Sciaffusa Schaffusa
SZ Schwyz Schwyz (or Schwytz) Svitto Sviz
SO Solothurn Soleure Soletta Soloturn
SG St. Gallen (St. Gall) Saint-Gall San Gallo Son Gagl
TG Thurgau (Thurgovia) Thurgovie Turgovia Turgovia
TI Ticino Tessin Ticino Tessin
UR Uri Uri Uri Uri
VS Valais Valais Vallese Vallais
VD Vaud Vaud Vaud Vad
ZG Zug Zoug Zugo Zug
ZH Zurich Zurich Zurigo Turitg

Admission of new cantons

The enlargement of Switzerland by way of the admission of new cantons ended in 1815. After a failed attempt of Vorarlberg to join Switzerland in 1919, the idea of resuming Swiss enlargement was revived in 2010 by a parliamentary motion that would allow the accession of regions bordering on Switzerland.

See also

  • List of legislative and executive councils of the Cantons of Switzerland
  • Data codes for Switzerland
  • List of cantons of Switzerland by elevation
  • Flags of Swiss cantons
  • Cantonal bank, a commercial bank (at least partially) owned by the canton

Notes

  1. This is the order generally used in Swiss official documents. At the head of the list are the three city cantons that were considered preeminent in the Old Swiss Confederacy; the other cantons are listed in order of accession to the Confederation. This traditional order of precedence among the cantons has no practical relevance in the modern federal state, in which the cantons are equal to one another, although it still determines formal precedence among the cantons' officials (see Swiss order of precedence).
  2. km
  3. Per km , based on 2000 population
  4. As of 31 December 2007,
  5. Seat of government and parliament is Herisau, the seat of the judicial authorities is Trogen
  6. Seat of parliament half-yearly alternates between Frauenfeld and Weinfelden

References

  • . Cited as Ehrenzeller.
  • Cited as H felin.

External links

  • Swissworld.org The cantons of Switzerland
  • GeoPuzzleAssemble cantons on a Swiss map
  • BadacDatabase on Swiss cantons and cities (French/German)

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