Useful country information
Land area: 15,355 sq mi (39,769 sq km); total area: 15,942 sq mi (41,290 sq km)
Population (2020 est.): 8,654,622 (growth rate: 0.78%); birth rate: 10.48/1000; infant mortality rate: 3.73/1000; life expectancy: 82.39
Capital (2011 est.): Bern, 353,000
Largest cities: Zurich, 1.194 million
Monetary unit: Swiss franc
National name: Schweiz/Suisse/Svizzera/Svizra
Languages: German (official) 64.9%, French (official) 22.6%, Italian (official) 8.3%, Serbo-Croatian 2.5%, Albanian 2.6%, Portuguese 3.4%, Spanish 2.2%, English 4.6%, Romansch (official) 0.5%, other 5.1% (2012 est.)
Ethnicity/race: German 65%, French 18%, Italian 10%, Romansch 1%, other 6%
Religions: Roman Catholic 38.2%, Protestant 26.9%, Muslim 4.9%, other Christian 5.7%, other 1.6%, none 21.4%, unspecified 1.3% (2012 est.)
Literacy rate: 99% (2003 est.)
In the 13th century, the Gotthard Pass region in the heart of the Alps became negotiable and rapidly developed into an economically important north-south crossing point. As a result, the valleys of Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden at the north foot of the Gotthard massif suddenly became a focal point of European power politics, and this led their inhabitants to found the core of what was to become Switzerland with a pact of mutual assistance.
Today Switzerland is a federal state in Central Europe. It is bordered by Germany, to the north, Austria and the Principality of Liechtenstein, to the east, Italy, to the south and France, to the west.
Switzerland's independence and neutrality have long been honored by the major European powers and Switzerland was not involved in either of the two World Wars. The political and economic integration of Europe over the past half century, as well as Switzerland's role in many UN and international organizations, may be rendering obsolete the country's concern for neutrality.
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