Luxembourg, Grand Duchy of

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Luxembourg, Grand Duchy of


(Grand-Duché de Luxembourg, Grossherzogtum Luxemburg), a state in Western Europe. Luxembourg borders on France, Belgium, and the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG). Area, 2,586 sq km; population, 348,000 (1972). The capital is the city of Luxembourg. Administratively, Luxembourg is divided into districts, the districts are divided into cantons, and the cantons into communes.

Constitution and government. Luxembourg is a constitutional monarchy. The present constitution was enacted on Oct. 17, 1868, and has been repeatedly revised and amended. The head of state is the grand duke. According to the constitution he alone exercises executive authority; he determines the mode of organizing the government and its composition, confirms and publishes laws, makes civilian and military appointments, commands the armed forces, and concludes international agreements. Actually all executive authority rests with the government, which is appointed by the grand duke and which is composed of the chairman (minister of state) and ministers. The highest legislative organ is a unicameral parliament, the Chamber of Deputies, which is elected by the population for five years by universal direct suffrage through proportional representation. All citizens who reach the age of 18 have the right to vote.

Local administration is in the hands of commissioners in the districts and burgomasters in the cantons. The organs of self-government in the communes are elected councils.

The court system includes civil courts, district courts, and the Supreme Court. The Council of State, appointed by the grand duke, is a consultative body on matters of law and also the highest administrative court.


Natural features. The north of Luxembourg is occupied by spurs of the Ardennes and the slate hills of the Rhine, with elevations from 400 to 500 m, which are composed mainly of clay slate and sandstone. The south is an elevated plain (with elevations from 300 to 400 m), which is the northeastern continuation of the Paris Basin and which is marked by sandstone ridges containing deposits of iron ore (the northern continuation of the Lorraine iron-ore basin), shales, and limestones, as well as mineral springs. The climate is temperate, transitional between maritime and continental. The average temperature in January is from 0° to 2°C; in July it is about 17°C. The precipitation is 700-850 mm a year. The dense river network with many tributaries belongs mainly to the basin of the Moselle River, a large part of which flows along the border between Luxembourg and the FRG. Brown forest and peaty podzolized soils predominate. Forests of beech, oak, spruce, fir, and pine cover about one-third of Luxembourg, primarily in the north.

Population. Luxembourgers make up about 90 percent of the population. The rest are mainly immigrants, such as Italians, Germans, and Frenchmen. The official languages are French and German. The common language of the majority of the population is letzeburgesch. Catholicism is the dominant religion, but Protestants and Jews also live in Luxembourg. The official calendar is the Gregorian. Of the total number of the economically active population (142,000 in 1972), 45.7 percent are engaged in industry and construction, 11.6 percent in agriculture and forestry, and 42.7 percent in other spheres. Industrial manual and office workers make up 75 percent of the working population. About 30,000 foreign workers have permanent jobs in Luxembourg. The urban population amounts to 64.4 percent (1970). The most important cities are Luxembourg, Esch, Differdange, and Dudelange.

Historical survey. At the time of the Roman Empire the territory of Luxembourg was included in the province of Belgica Prima, forming part of the kingdom of the Franks in the early Middle Ages. From the tenth century the territory of presentday Luxembourg was part of the county of Luxembourg, which became a duchy in the 14th century; in the 15th century, after passing to the house of Hapsburg, it became one of the 17 provinces of the Netherlands. After the Netherlands bourgeois revolution in the 16th century, Luxembourg, where the feudal nobility and the Catholic Church were powerful, remained part of the Spanish Netherlands, passing to the Austrian Netherlands in 1714. Austrian rule in Luxembourg came to an end in 1794, and the country was incorporated into France. The Congress of Vienna of 1814-15 created the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg both as a component part of the German Confederation and in personal union with the kingdom of the Netherlands.

Luxembourg’s present-day frontiers were established by a Belgian-Dutch treaty in 1839, when part of the former Grand Duchy of Luxembourg passed to Belgium, forming the province of Luxembourg. Luxembourg joined the German Customs Union in 1842. Light industry and cottage industry developed rapidly in Luxembourg in the first half of the 19th century; the first railroad was built in 1845. After the dissolution of the German Confederation in 1866, the London Conference of 1867 (attended by Russia, Great Britain, Austria, Prussia, and France) proclaimed Luxembourg a “permanently neutral” state, and a constitution was adopted in Luxembourg in 1868. In 1890 the personal union of Luxembourg and the Netherlands came to an end, and the throne passed to Grand Duke Adolphus of the Nassau dynasty, who reigned until 1905.

The late 19th century witnessed the rapid development of large-scale industry, especially metallurgy, in cities such as Esch, Differdange, and Dudelange. The Luxembourg Socialist Workers’ Party, which arose in the 1890’s, displayed reformist tendencies from the moment it was founded. Several strikes took place between 1905 and 1910, and trade unions began springing up in 1916.

Luxembourg was occupied by German troops in World War I (1914-18). In 1918 and 1919 the democratic workers’ movement developed in Luxembourg under the influence of the Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia. The working people won a great victory with the introduction of universal suffrage, the shortening of the working day to eight hours, and other reforms. The Communist Party of Luxembourg (CPL) was founded in 1921. The Treaty of Versailles of 1919 abolished Luxembourg’s customs union with Germany, and in 1921, Luxembourg and Belgium signed an agreement establishing the Belgium-Luxembourg Economic Union. In a referendum held in July 1937 the majority of the population rejected a bill outlawing the CPL. Diplomatic relations between Luxembourg and the USSR were established on Aug. 26, 1935, broken off in May 1941, and restored in October 1942.

In World War II (1939-45) on May 10, 1940, fascist German troops occupied Luxembourg, and the government emigrated, as did Grand Duchess Charlotte (reigned from 1919 to 1964). The Luxembourg general strike of 1942 was begun in response to the decision of the fascist German government to annex Luxembourg to the German Reich, to introduce universal military service in Luxembourg, and to draft Luxembourgers into the fascist German Army; the strike foiled the aggressors’ plans and contributed to the strengthening of the Luxembourg Resistance Movement, the nucleus of which was made up of Communists. In February 1945, British and American troops liberated Luxembourg from the fascist German invaders; in the fall of 1945 parliamentary elections were held and a government including Communists was formed (the Communists remained in the government until 1947). In 1948 the article concerning Luxembourg’s neutrality was eliminated from the constitution.

Luxembourg’s postwar foreign policy has been determined mainly by its participation in the system of groupings created by the Western European countries, with the assistance or direct participation of the USA. As a member of Benelux, Luxembourg signed the Brussels Pact of 1948 and joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1949. Several NATO arms warehouses are located in Luxembourg, and some of its troops have been transferred to the combined armed forces of NATO in Europe. In 1955 the parliament of Luxembourg approved the Paris Agreements of 1954, in accordance with which Luxembourg joined the Western European Union. Luxembourg participates in the major international state monopoly associations; it joined the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951 and the European Economic Community and Euratom in 1957. In the autumn of 1974, Luxembourg joined the International Energy Agency (set up within the framework of the Economic Cooperation and Development Organization).

In the postwar years Luxembourg’s industry has been growing at a faster pace, and steel mills and metalworking and machine-building plants have been built. Luxembourg’s ruling circles adopted a policy of strengthening the country’s economic and political alliance with the USA, France, and the FRG. Luxembourg’s progressive forces are headed by the CPL, which has become an influential political party (in the 1974 parliamentary elections it obtained five of 59 seats in parliament). The progressive forces vigorously fight for peace, for the strengthening of European security, for Luxembourg’s return to the traditional policy of neutrality, and for the social and democratic rights of the working people. In 1971 and 1973, in connection with the introduction of indirect taxes on goods and services and rising prices, the capital of Luxembourg was the site of demonstrations and actions of the working people, who demanded higher wages.

Since the 1960’s there have been increasing business contacts between Luxembourg (Grand Duke Jean has been reigning since 1964) and the USSR in the form of visits of the respective foreign ministers (to the USSR in 1969 and 1973 and to Luxembourg in 1972), an agreement on cultural cooperation signed in 1969, exchanges of parliamentary delegations in 1970 and 1971, a trade treaty between the USSR and Benelux signed in 1971, and the successful work of the joint commission on economic, scientific, and technical cooperation between the USSR and the Belgium-Luxembourg Economic Union in 1973. More recently, contacts between the two countries have included a ten-year agreement on economic, industrial, and scientific and technical cooperation between the USSR and the Belgium-Luxembourg Economic Union in November 1974; the opening of the Soviet East-West United Bank in Luxembourg in December 1974; the official visit to the USSR in June 1975 of Grand Duke Jean, during which agreements were signed on air links, scientific and technical cooperation in ferrous metallurgy, and shipment to the USSR of products of the Luxembourg ferrous metallurgy industry; and a program of cultural cooperation in 1975 and 1976.

Political parties, trade unions, and other social organizations. The Christian Social People’s Party (about 7,500 members in 1975), founded in the 1870’s, expresses the interests of the major industrialists and landholders. The Luxembourg Socialist Workers’ Party (LSWP; about 4,500 members in 1975), founded in the 1890’s, is influential among a considerable number of the workers and the petite bourgeoisie. It is affiliated with the Socialist International. The Democratic Party (about 2,000 members in 1975), founded in 1947, unites the middle and petite bourgeoisie. The Social Democratic Party of Luxembourg (about 1,500 members in 1975) was founded in January-March 1971 by right-wing socialists expelled from the LSWP. The Communist Party of Luxembourg (CPL) was founded in 1921.

The General Confederation of Labor (GCL) was founded in 1919 and had more than 31,000 members in 1975. It is affiliated with the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU). The Luxembourg Workers Union, founded in 1916, had about 22,000 members in 1975. It is affiliated with the ICFTU through its membership in the GCL. The Luxembourg Christian Union of Workers, founded in 1921, had 10,000 members in 1975. It is affiliated with the World Confederation of Labor. There is a Luxembourg-USSR Society. Progressive Youth is the democratic youth organization of Luxembourg.

Economic geography. Luxembourg is a highly developed industrial country whose economy is dominated by foreign capital, mainly French and Belgian. Industry accounts for more than 70 percent of the gross national product, and industrial production makes up more than 90 percent of export. The main branches of industry are iron-ore mining (5 million tons in 1972) and ferrous metallurgy (4.8 million tons of pig iron and 5.4 million tons of steel). Luxembourg holds an important place in the capitalist world in the output of pig iron and steel. One feature of industry is the high degree of monopoly concentration; one company, Arbed, which is controlled by Belgian and French capital, owns more than four-fifths of the production capacity of Luxembourg’s metallurgical industry. Another feature is the export orientation of industrial output.

The metallurgical industry uses local iron ore as well as imported, mainly French, ore; coal and coke are imported from the FRG. The main metallurgical complexes with a full production cycle are located near the mines (Differdange, Esch, Dudelange, and Redange) and in the suburbs of the city of Luxembourg. Luxembourg has enterprises of the machine-building and chemical industries (production of phosphorous fertilizers from blastfurnace slag) and of the food, cement, and ceramic industries. There are large steam power plants and a water-storage electric power plant on the Our River. Electric power output was 2.8 billion kilowatt-hours in 1972.

Agriculture accounts for less then 10 percent of the gross national product and has no definite specialization. Small peasant farms are typical, but large farms play a considerable role; 36 percent of the peasants have lots of up to 10 hectares (ha) but own less than 10 percent of the cultivated land. The total land used for agriculture is 135,000 ha (1970), of which one-half is composed of tilled land, orchards, and vegetable crops and the other half of pasture and hayfields. The main crops are wheat, barley, oats, potatoes, and beets. Horticulture and viticulture are carried on in the river valleys. The average harvest yield of the grain crops is more than 25 centners per ha. More than 9,000 tractors were in use in 1972. The value of output is higher in livestock raising than in crop farming. In 1970-71 the herd of livestock included 192,000 head of cattle, 106,000 hogs, and about 400,000 fowl.

The annual procurement of lumber, primarily from deciduous trees, is 200,000 cu m.

Luxembourg has a well-developed transportion network. The length of the railroads is 370 km, of which one-third are electrified. European trunk railroads pass through Luxembourg. The country has about 4,000 km of paved highways, 12,500 trucks, and 122,000 passenger automobiles (1972). There is navigation on the Moselle River.

Luxembourg has extensive foreign economic relations. The chief export articles are rolled steel, phosphorous fertilizers, cement, lumber, and electric power; import consists of coal and coke, iron ore, machines and equipment, petroleum products, fabrics, and grain. The monetary unit is the Luxembourg franc, which is equal to the Belgian franc.


Health and social welfare. In 1969 the birth rate was 13.3 and the death rate 12.4 per 1,000 population; infant mortality was 17.5 per 1,000 livebirths. Pathology is dominated by noninfectious diseases, such as atherosclerosis and other cardiovascular diseases, malignant tumors, and diabetes mellitus. Infectious diseases are represented by children’s infections, hepatitis, and venereal diseases. Poliomyelitis has been eradicated, and there are no cases of diseases requiring quarantine. In 1954-64 the incidence of tuberculosis dropped from 100 to 50 cases per 100,000 population. In 1969, Luxembourg had 31 hospital institutions with 4,000 hospital beds (about 12 beds per 1,000 population), 347 physicians (one physician per 970 population), 108 dentists, 165 pharmacists, and about 900 paramedical personnel.

Education and cultural affairs. The first level of the public education system consists of preschool institutions for children between the ages of four and six (more than 7,000 children in 1969), followed by state or private compulsory elementary schools with a course of instruction from eight to nine years; secondary schools are divided into seven-year classical lycées and six-year modern lycées. In the 1969-70 academic year there were 36,000 students in the elementary schools and 8,700 students in the secondary schools. There are also three-year supplementary schools for those who have completed seven grades of elementary school. The language of instruction is German in the compulsory schools and French in secondary schools; French is taught in the compulsory schools from the second grade.

Vocational schools with a course of instruction from two to four years admit elementary school students of grades seven through nine and graduates of the three-year supplementary schools. Elementary-school teachers are trained by pedagogical institutes from among those who have completed the lycee. There were more than 9,000 students in vocational schools in the 1969-70 academic year. The city of Luxembourg is the site of the International University of Comparative Sciences, which was founded in 1957; the faculty of comparative law, the university’s only faculty, had 65 students in 1971. In 1969 what are called the University Courses were set up; its graduates are admitted to the second year of foreign universities. The National Library (founded in 1798; 520,000 volumes and 166 incunabula), the City Library (founded in 1901; 40,000 volumes), and the National Museum are located in the city of Luxembourg.


Press, radio, and television. In 1975, Luxembourg had 20 newspapers, most of them published in the city of Luxembourg, with a total circulation of more than 300,000 copies. The largest newspapers (circulation figures for 1975) are Luxemburger Wort (founded in 1848; circulation, 73,500), the organ of the Christian Social People’s Party, published in German; Arbecht (founded in 1919; circulation, 24,000), the organ of the National Federation of the Working People of Luxembourg, published in German; Letzeburger Journal (founded in 1880; circulation, 32,500), the organ of the Democratic Party, published in German and French; La Meuse-Luxembourg (founded in 1945; circulation, 12,000), published in French; Zeitung vum Letzeburger Vollek (founded in 1946; circulation, 10,000), the organ of the Communist Party of Luxembourg, published in German; and Tageblatt (founded 1912; circulation, 32,500), the organ of the Luxembourg Socialist Workers Party, published in German in the city of Esch.

Luxembourg’s radio and television are commercial services owned by the Companie Luxembourgeoise de telediffusion.


Architecture and art. Remains of primitive culture (dolmens and pottery) and arts-and-crafts articles of the Celts have been discovered on the territory of Luxembourg. Remnants of thermae, camps and towers, basreliefs, and mosaics have have been preserved from Roman times. In the eighth through tenth centuries a school of miniatures arose in the medieval center of Echternach. The chapel of the Vianden Castle and the St. Willibrord Basilica in Echternach, both Romanesque, were built in the early 11th century, and Gothic churches, rich in architectural ornamentation, in Luxembourg, Septfontaines, and other cities in the 14th through 16th centuries. Elements of the Renaissance appeared on some structures only in the second half of the 16th century. In the 17th century the baroque castles of Vitrange (1610), Wiltz (1631), and others were built. The second half of the 18th century was a period in which the decorative arts flourished, including the production of furniture, metal articles, and pottery; a manufactory was founded in Septfontaines in 1775. The architecture of the 19th century developed under the banner of classicism, then of eclecticism. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries large-scale housing and industrial construction was undertaken, such as the settlements near the cities of Esch and Dudelange and a chemical plant in the city of Mersch. The fine art of the 19th century was under the influence of the French school (the portraitist J. B. Fresez and the landscape painter M. Kirsch). After World War I (1914-18) it followed French fauvism and German expressionism (the painter J. Kutter). The works of many contemporary painters, such as G. Kesseler, J. Probst, M. Hoffmann, and F. Gillen, show the influence of H. Matisse, P. Picasso, and other French painters. The sculptor L. Wercollier creates abstract compositions.


Matveev, G. Liuksemburg. Moscow, 1960.
Kill, J. Tysiacheletnii Liuksemburg. Moscow, 1965. (Translated from German.)
Van Werveke, N. Kulturgeschichte des Luxemburgerlandes, vols. 1-3. Luxembourg, 1924-26.
Blum, R. Die Russisch-Sowjetisch-Luxemburgische Freundschaft im Laufe der Geschichte. Luxembourg, 1957.
Hemmer, C., and M. Schroeder. Images du Luxembourg. Luxembourg, 1960. [15-322-1; updated]
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.