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(lĭkh`tənshtīn'), officially Principality of Liechtenstein, principality (2015 est. pop. 37,000), 62 sq mi (160 sq km), W central Europe. It is situated in the Alps between Austria and Switzerland and is bounded in the west by the Rhine River. VaduzVaduz
, town (1996 pop. 5,017), capital of Liechtenstein, W Liechtenstein, on the Rhine River. It is a tourist center. A beautiful medieval castle (now an art museum) dominates the town.
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 is the capital.

Land, People, Economy, and Government

The country is mainly mountainous, with the Rhine valley in its western third. The population is largely Roman Catholic, with a Protestant minority. German is the national language; Alemannic, a High German dialect, is also spoken. There is a large component of foreign workers.

Historically agricultural, Liechtenstein has been increasingly industrialized, with industry and services now employing most of the workforce. Only a small fraction of the population still engages in agriculture, producing wheat, barley, corn, potatoes, livestock, and dairy products. The leading manufactures include electronics, metals, dental products, ceramics, pharmaceuticals, and precision and optical instruments. A large part of the production is exported. Tourism is an increasingly important industry. About a third of state revenues are derived from the many international corporations that are headquartered in Liechtenstein because of the low business taxes. The stable political environment and the secrecy of its financial institutions contributed to Liechtenstein's development as a banking center and tax haven, but that secrecy has been diminished in the 21st cent. under pressure from foreign governments. Agricultural products, raw materials, fuels, machinery, metal goods, foodstuffs, textiles, and motor vehicles are imported. The main trading partners are the European Union countries and Switzerland.

Liechtenstein is a constitutional monarchy governed under the constitution of 1921 as amended. The hereditary monarch is the head of state and has significant executive power. The head of government is appointed by the monarch, and the cabinet is elected by the legislature. Members of the 25-seat unicameral Parliament or Landtag are elected by popular vote for four-year terms. Liechtenstein uses Swiss currency and is represented abroad through Switzerland. Administratively, Liechtenstein is divided into 11 communes.


The Liechtenstein ruling house is an old Austrian family. The principality was created in 1719 by uniting the county of Vaduz with the barony of Schellenburg. The princes, vassals of the Holy Roman emperors, also owned huge estates (many times larger than their principality) in Austria and adjacent territories; they rarely visited their country but were active in the service of the Hapsburg monarchy. Liechtenstein became independent in 1866, after having been a member of the German Confederation from 1815 to 1866.

The principality escaped the major upheavals of the 19th and 20th cent. Prince Hans Adam II succeeded to the throne in 1989 after the death of his father, Francis Joseph II, and has had a number of conflicts with the parliament due to his attempts to have a significant role in running the government, particularly its economic policy. In 2003 voters approved a number of constitutional amendments that the prince had demanded, including giving him the right to dismiss the government and approve judicial nominees; his power to veto legislation and referendum results was preserved then and also by a 2012 referendum. In 2004 Prince Alois became regent for his father and assumed responsibility for the everyday affairs of state.


See P. Raton, Liechtenstein: History and Institutions of the Principality (1970); T. A. Larke, Index and Thesaurus of Liechtenstein (1984).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the Principality of Liechtenstein, a state in Central Europe on the right bank of the Rhine River between Austria and Switzerland. Area, 157 sq km; population, 22,000 (1972), mainly of Austrian and German-Swiss descent. State language, German. Predominant religion, Catholicism. Official calendar, Gregorian. Capital, Vaduz (3,900 population in 1970); other cities, Schaan (2,300), Balzers (about 2,000), and Triesen (1,700). Liechtenstein is divided administratively into districts— the Upper Country and the Lower Country—and the latter into communes.

Liechtenstein is a constitutional monarchy. The present constitution came into force on Oct. 5, 1921. The prince is the head of state. The supreme legislative body is a unicameral parliament (Landtag) consisting of 15 members, who are elected for four years. Suffrage is extended only to men who have reached 20 years of age. The government of Liechtenstein consists of a prime minister, his deputy, and two administrative councillors. The judicial system is made up of district courts, a high court, the Supreme Court, and a high state tribunal.

Spurs of the Alps (with elevations of more than 2,000 m) occupy about three-fourths of Liechtenstein. In the west is the Rhine Valley. The climate is temperate, and precipitation totals 700–1,200 mm a year. About one-fourth of the territory is forested, mainly with spruce, beech, and oak; there are subalpine and alpine meadows.

Historical survey. Under the Romans, the territory of Liechtenstein became part of the province of Raetia in 15 B.C. In the early Middle Ages it was part of the duchy of Swabia. Later feudal lordships sprang up there—the county of Vaduz (1342) and the lordship of Schellenberg (part of the Holy Roman Empire). Between 1699 and 1712 these lands were acquired by an Austrian prince from the Liechtenstein family, and in 1719 they were united into the principality of Liechtenstein, which was directly dependent on the empire. (The date of the formation of Liechtenstein is 1719.) In 1806, Liechtenstein was incorporated into the Confederation of the Rhine, and from 1815 to 1866 it was part of the German Confederation. From 1876 to 1918 it was closely related to Austria-Hungary, and together with the Austrian region of Vorarlberg it made up a common customs district. In 1921 it came, in effect, under the protectorate of Switzerland, while officially being an autonomous state. In 1924, Liechtenstein joined the Swiss Customs Union. Liechtenstein is represented diplomatically abroad by Switzerland. The mail, telephone, telegraph, radio, and television are also under Swiss authority.

After World War II, industry developed rapidly in Liechtenstein, and a working class took shape. In 1971, Liechtenstein introduced restrictions on foreigners residing in the principality. (Their number must not exceed one-third of the country’s population.) As a result of a referendum held on Feb. 28, 1971, the parliament’s proposal to grant suffrage to women in local and national elections was rejected, which precipitated the first women’s demonstrations in the history of Liechtenstein.

Liechtenstein’s political parties include the Burgher Party, founded in 1927, which expresses the interests of the industrial and financial bourgeoisie, and the Patriotic Union, expressing the interests of the petite bourgeoisie, urban dwellers, merchants, and peasants. The Workers’ Party was founded after World War II.


Economy. Liechtenstein is an industrial-agrarian country that depends on foreign, primarily Swiss, capital. More than half of the economically active population is employed (1970) in industry and handicrafts (about 4,900), and the role of trade and services is significant. Industrial production is intended mainly for export. Industries are machine building (plants manufacture cast and stamped products in Eschen and calculating and precision machines in Mauren, Vaduz, Balzers, and Schaan), chemicals and pharmaceuticals, textiles, food (canned meats and wines), woodwork, ceramics, and false teeth (a large factory near Vaduz). Electric-power output totaled 45 million kilowatt-hours in 1970.

The number of people employed in agriculture dropped from 70 percent to 5.5 percent between 1930 and 1970. Only 12.5 percent of the total land is under cultivation; 43.8 percent of this is pasture, mainly alpine. The farms are mostly small-scale peasant operations. Meat and dairy livestock raising predominates over farming. There were more than 7,000 head of cattle and 7,000 hogs in 1970–71. There are truck gardens, orchards, and vineyards. Many small-scale landholding peasants combine agriculture with handicrafts and work in industry or services for tourists. The principal sources of Liechtenstein’s currency revenues are financial and commercial operations that are carried out in Liechtenstein because of its low income tax rates for foreign firms (about 15,000 foreign firms are registered), foreign tourism and the health-resort business, and the issue of postage stamps. The monetary unit is the Swiss franc.


Education and cultural affairs. The public education system includes kindergartens for children four to five years of age, compulsory eight-year Volkschulen, and secondary schools, including Realschulen (three years) and separate boys’ and girls’ Gymnasiums (five years). In the 1970–71 academic year 3,300 pupils were being taught in 14 Volkschulen and five secondary schools. In 1961 the first specialized secondary educational institution was opened in Vaduz, the Evening Technicum, which trains mechanics, electricians, and builders. Higher education is obtained abroad, mainly in Switzerland.

The State Museum in Vaduz (founded in 1953) has a large collection of paintings.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


Official name: Principality of Liechtenstein

Capital city: Vaduz

Internet country code: .li

Flag description: Two equal horizontal bands of blue (top) and red with a gold crown on the hoist side of the blue band

National anthem: “Oben am jungen Rhein lehnet sich Liechtenstein an Alpenhöhn” (first line), sung to the music of “God Save the King”

Geographical description: Central Europe, between Aus­tria and Switzerland

Total area: 61.7 sq. mi. (160 sq. km.)

Climate: Continental; cold, cloudy winters with frequent snow or rain; cool to moderately warm, cloudy, humid summers

Nationality: noun: Liechtensteiner(s); adjective: Liechten­stein

Population: 34,247 (July 2007 CIA est.)

Ethnic groups: Alemannic 86%, Italian, Turkish, and other 14%

Languages spoken: German (official), Alemannic dialect

Religions: Roman Catholic 76.2%, Protestant 7%, unknown 10.6%, other 6.2%

Legal Holidays:

All Saints' DayNov 1
CandlemasFeb 2
Christmas DayDec 25
Christmas EveDec 24
Easter MondayApr 25, 2011; Apr 9, 2012; Apr 1, 2013; Apr 21, 2014; Apr 6, 2015; Mar 28, 2016; Apr 17, 2017; Apr 2, 2018; Apr 22, 2019; Apr 13, 2020; Apr 5, 2021; Apr 18, 2022; Apr 10, 2023
EpiphanyJan 6
Feast of St. JosephMar 19
Good FridayApr 22, 2011; Apr 6, 2012; Mar 29, 2013; Apr 18, 2014; Apr 3, 2015; Mar 25, 2016; Apr 14, 2017; Mar 30, 2018; Apr 19, 2019; Apr 10, 2020; Apr 2, 2021; Apr 15, 2022; Apr 7, 2023
Immaculate Conception DayDec 8
Labor DayMay 1
National DayAug 15
Nativity of Our LadySep 8
New Year's DayJan 1
SilvesterDec 31
St. Stephen's DayDec 26
Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.


central European principality, comprising 65 square miles. [Eur. Hist.: NCE, 1578]
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


a small mountainous principality in central Europe on the Rhine: formed in 1719 by the uniting of the lordships of Schellenburg and Vaduz, which had been purchased by the Austrian family of Liechtenstein; customs union formed with Switzerland in 1924. Official language: German. Religion: Roman Catholic majority. Currency: Swiss franc. Capital: Vaduz. Pop.: 34 000 (2003 est.). Area: 160 sq. km (62 sq. miles)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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