As you’ve watched the Olympics this year, you may have seen athletes from Liechtenstein, a small country near Switzerland. In fact, it is the smallest country to win an Olympic medal, though this has occurred during Winter Olympic Games.
Although Liechtenstein is tiny, its history is anything but boring.
A Brief History of Liechtenstein
In 1719, Liechtenstein became a principality in the Holy Roman Empire. In 1815, Liechtenstein became part of the Germanic Confederation after being declared a sovereign state. It gained its independence in 1866 due to the dissolution of the Confederation, at which point it also eliminated its army. One of the most unique Liechtenstein facts is that this country still has no army, and it has made a point of avoiding confrontation with other nations.
This country’s close proximity to Austria made it easy for the two nations to stay on particularly good terms for years, but World War I changed this. The economy was suddenly suffering, which meant Liechtenstein had to go into a trade bloc with Switzerland.
The result was that the two countries shared one currency and had the same external trade rules. To this day, this country’s currency is the Swiss franc (it was once the Austrian krone).
Recent Liechtenstein History
Like Switzerland, Liechtenstein managed to stay a neutral country during World War II, which seemed to help it out. In fact, the economy quickly began recovering in the following years, likely due to the taxes that were lower than average.
One of the most well-known facts about Liechtenstein is that in 2000, the country was accused of being a haven for money launderers since this crime occurred so often there. In response, the banks changed some policies, and they now no longer allow customers to deposit or withdraw money anonymously. In addition, Liechtenstein signed a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty with the US in 2003 in order to enforce the new laws regarding money laundering.
Current Political Liechtenstein Facts
In 2003, Prince Hans-Adam II commanded that the elected officials be dismissed so that he could appoint his own chosen judges and make laws of his own. Though many were worried about a possible dictator taking charge, they were even more worried about his threat of leaving the country since their economy would be affected.
Therefore, he is now the chief of state, even though his son, Prince Alois, has been performing the duties for this position since 2004. The current prime minister is Klaus Tschuetscher, who took office in 2009.
As you learn about Liechtenstein history, you should note that this country features a hereditary constitutional monarchy. This means the members of parliament are elected, but they share the political power with the monarch. The prince usually has final say in political matters, and just as in Liechtenstein history, he passes this position down to his heir.
- Official Name: The Principality of Liechtenstein
- Capital: Vaduz
- Population: 36,713 (2011)
- Area: 61.8 square miles, slightly smaller than Washington, DC
- Major Language: German
- Major Religion: Roman Catholic
- Main exports: small machinery, car parts, dentures, prepared food, hardware, electronic equipment, pottery, optical products